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City’s zoo from hell

More charges are to be laid against the East London Zoo by the national council of SPCAs (NSPCA) following the death of a female gibbon monkey called Peanut who died of TB and may have been infected by humans.

Peanut died in her enclosure on July 2, four months after her mate died of the disease and following an NSPCA request she be euthanased after she was found to be a TB carrier. Further contraventions of the Animal Protection Act would be added to the charges, NSPCA wildlife protection unit national inspector Cassandra MacDonald said.

BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said “legal recourse was welcomed” because the zoo had nothing to hide.

The new charges follow after a male Chacma baboon called “William” was put down in May after MacDonald found him suffering from paralysis in his hind legs. When a warning that the baboon be examined by a vet was not complied with, William was euthanased on site because his condition had deteriorated to the point where his open wounds became infected and infested with maggots. MacDonald said that during her unannounced inspection visit in May she had drawn up several contraventions to the Animal Protection Act and had issued the zoo with a list of directives to rectify the following:

lHoles in enclosure fencing meant that humans could touch primates. There was a “high possibility” of the spread of zoonotic diseases, which can be spread from humans to animals – and vice versa. “For example, primates can contract TB from humans and the gibbons were most likely infected by their handlers or members of the public”;

In addition MacDonald said she had requested that vets clarify the condition of a number of animals, but said the zoo had not been very forthcoming in sending all these reports to the NSPCA. “I have had to source vets’ reports myself.”

She said an NSPCA inspector had returned to the zoo last Friday to check on the status of the directives and issued a further warning.

When a Daily Dispatch team visited the East London Zoo which dates back to the 1930s, on Monday morning, it was clear that the ageing infrastructure with its unkempt plant beds and outdated, decaying enclosures, many long-abandoned, needed to be hoisted into the 21st century.

The Dispatch found:

Members of the public posting on the Pets Lost and Found Facebook page have been stridently vocal about conditions in the zoo and have called for it to be shut down, but Ngwenya said “a group of people” were “sensationalising tragic situations as part of their smear campaign to close down the zoo”.

Ngwenya said there were plans to improve a number of enclosures this financial year and that the iguana, a primate enclosure and the wild dog enclosures would be revamped.

“We have been openly and honestly working with every organisation that comes in good faith to solve some of the challenges in our zoo.” He said a hole in an enclosure had been fixed.

Safety issues are also a concern. On Sunday afternoon a woman visitor was stabbed in the arm and robbed of her handbag in front of four young children. Ngwenya said the mugging was “very serious and unfortunate” and would be taken up with the security cluster. — barbarah@dispatch.co.za