Forest Department to file chargesheet in animal mismanagement case - Hindustan Times
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Forest Department to file chargesheet in animal mismanagement case

Feb 20, 2024 07:14 AM IST

An official from the forest department confirmed the development and said that they are trying to file the chargesheet as soon as possible

The forest department has completed investigation into the animal mismanagement case registered in September 2023 against the zoo director of Rajiv Gandhi Zoological Park, and is now preparing to file a chargesheet in court but the date is yet to be decided. An official from the forest department confirmed the development and said that they are trying to file the chargesheet as soon as possible.

fter the initial investigation, the forest department registered an offence against the zoo director and he was asked to present before the inquiry committee appointed by the department. (HT PHOTO)
fter the initial investigation, the forest department registered an offence against the zoo director and he was asked to present before the inquiry committee appointed by the department. (HT PHOTO)

A case was registered in September 2023 under sections 2 (16 G), 9, 39, and 51 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, months after finding irregularities in the zoological park’s Wildlife Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WARRC), the functioning of which has been outsourced to the Indian Herpetological Society (IHS). The issue first came to the fore in April 2023 when Aditya Paranjape, honorary wildlife warden of the Pune Forest Division, complained about the WARRC. The forest department then conducted two inspections: one in May, and the other one in June to verify the allegations levelled at the zoo director as well as the WARRC. Hindustan Times, through a series of reports, had highlighted the mismanagement at the zoo, and how it was adversely affecting the animals kept there. In the inspection report, the forest officials mentioned that the records of some of the captive animals were found missing, some animals were kept illegally, and many animals were released into different habitats. The second report highlighted serious flaws observed in the management of animals from the scheduled or most protected animal category, including four-horned antelope and hyena.

After the initial investigation, the forest department registered an offence against the zoo director and he was asked to present before the inquiry committee appointed by the department. During the inquiry, the director accepted some of the charges made against him. He also shared other people’s names with the committee who were allegedly also involved. This included some of the staff members of the zoo authority and the society which has the primary responsibility of managing the centre. The department then summoned the concerned people and asked them to present before the committee. Reportedly, one of the members cited health issues and submitted his response in the written format.

Ashutosh Shendage, assistant conservator of forests, who is also the investigative officer in the case, said, “The department has completed its inquiry in this case. We are now preparing to file a case in court. Although there is no deadline to file the case, we are trying to file it as soon as possible.”

Paranjape said, “This is a crucial development in this case, as the department has completed the inquiry now and soon, it will file a proper case. I am hopeful that henceforward, action will be taken on the fast track.”

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