Mumbai: A day after the Central Zoo Authority demanded an explanation on the death of a female Homboldt Penguin in Mumbai Zoo, the Maharashtra Lokayukta has summoned BMC officials for a hearing on Friday, an official said.
"The concerned officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have been asked to attend a hearing on the issue before Lokayukta Justice ML Tahilyani tomorrow," said BMC's Leader of Opposition Pravin Chheda.
"I had written a letter to the Lokayukta yesterday, highlighting the massive corruption and other irregularities in the acquisition of these endangered Humboldt Penguins of which one died on 23 October. The Lokayukta has taken note and called a hearing on the issue tomorrow," Chheda told IANS.
After the hearing, Lokayukta Justice Tahilyani is likely to make a visit to the special air-conditioned enclosure where the remaining seven Humboldt Penguins, including four females and three males are in quarantine, he added.
In an apparent damage-control exercise, the BMC late on Thursday issued a 'health bulletin' on the seven birds at Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, or Mumbai Zoo.
"The seven Humboldt Penguins appear healthy and no abnormal signs are observed. All birds are observed to be feeding well and are active," Director In-Charge of Mumbai Zoo Sanjay Tripathi said in a statement.
Yesterday, Central Zoo Authority (CZA) Member-Secretary DN Singh sought a reply from Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta on the issue and related points raised in a representation made by the Humane Society International, India (HSI).
The HSI questioned whether the Coex Aquarium in Seoul, South Korea is registered with the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) as a captive breeding centre for Humboldt Penguins and if the BMC had secured all the requisite import certification.
The HSI also raised doubts on the suitability and appropriateness for housing and care of the Humboldt Penguins at the zoo, under the norms prescribed by the CITES.
Since the death of the female flightless bird occurred due to Septicemia while in quarantine points to poor standards of care at the Mumbai Zoo, the CZA has asked the BMC to provide a detailed report on the autopsy carried out on the dead Humboldt Penguin by this weekend.
A major political row had erupted in Maharashtra after the death of the female bird, with most parties questioning the wisdom of keeping the endangered species in the harsh tropical climate of Mumbai.
The penguins, flown in from Seoul on 26 July, are undergoing an acclimatization spell in a specially-designed air-conditioned enclosure before going on public display later this month.
After the death of Dory, all major political parties have demanded that the remaining seven Humboldt Penguins be returned as they can survive only in cold regions and the warm Mumbai climate does not suit them.
A pet project of Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray, son of Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, the Congress and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena said these flightless birds were brought here for someone's "childish stubbornness" and the mute bird died.