Assam Congress slams transfer of black panthers to private zoo in Gujarat

The opposition Congress in Assam on Saturday strongly condemned the transfer of two black panthers from the Assam State Zoo to a private zoo in Gujarat.

According to the zoo officials in Guwahati, Assam is the only breeding centre for black panthers in the country. The Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden in Guwahati would get four zebras from Israel in exchange for the two black panthers, with the approval of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).

Approved by the CZA in February 2019, the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom is owned by Reliance Industries Limited.

Assam Congress spokesperson Bobbeeta Sharma said that it seems that even wild animals kept in captivity in zoos cannot escape from the tentacles of big corporate houses, as the recent ‘hush-hush’ transfer of two black panthers from the state zoo in Guwahati to a zoo in Gujarat being set up by the Reliance group has proved.

She said: “Despite the hue and cry accompanying the transfer of three elephants from Assam to a temple in Gujarat a year back, two black panthers from the Assam State Zoo were transferred to the Jamnagar zoo, being set up by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, in a secret manner during the second week of January, without the knowledge of animal lovers and conservationists in the state.”

Sharma, who is also the chairperson of the Assam Congress media department, said that although a senior forest official claimed that the transfer was done as part of an exchange programme under which the Jamnagar centre would help Assam acquire four Zebras from Israel, the document produced by him (the official) did not mention any such exchange and only stated that the animals were ‘acquisitioned’ for the purpose of ‘display’.

“There is no mention of any exchange of animals in the letter addressed to the PCCF (Wildlife) of Assam,” the Congress spokesperson said, demanding a high-level inquiry into the matter.

“What was the official procedure followed? Can such transfer take place for display? If they have been sent for ‘display’, will the black panthers be brought back to the zoo after ‘display’? How can any such transfer take place during the pandemic situation,” the Congress leader asked.

Sharma said that it goes without saying that after the recent acquisitions by Reliance Industries of a large number of companies and its entry into every business from telecom and entertainment to retail marketing, now even wild animals are not safe from its clutches.