Zoo looking into sitatunga debacle

2014-09-01 19:03
Sitatunga antelope.

Sitatunga antelope. (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - The Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (City Parks) is investigating how eight sitatunga antelope were brought to South Africa from a zoo in the Czech Republic, it said on Monday.

The antelope arrived in South Africa without the necessary clearance certificates and were later put down because they were injured, dehydrated, and traumatised.

Johannesburg Zoo's accreditation to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) has since been suspended.

"Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo were advised on Wednesday that our accreditation with PAAZAB (African Association of Zoos and Aquaria) has been temporarily suspended," spokesperson Jenny Moodley said.

"We've also lost our accreditation to the Waza (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums)."

City Parks advised Waza it had approached Prague Zoo to provide them with information regarding the acquisition of the antelope. However, Prague Zoo thus far had not been willing to share any documents with the Johannesburg Zoo.

The zoo has since appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to secure the information, and determine if anyone had negotiated the transaction on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo without the necessary authority.

"PwC have been commissioned to conduct an independent audit," Moodley said.

"Were any person found to be transgressing our internal processes, they will be handled through the disciplinary process.

Moodley said the zoo would continue to operate.

Incorrect paperwork

"We unfortunately, due to the suspension of our accreditation, won't be in a position to negotiate the transfer of animals from another zoo," she said.

"The animals in the zoo will be taken care of."

On 7 August, City Parks said it had not entered into negotiations with the Prague Zoo regarding the acquisition of the eight antelope.

The Johannesburg Zoo had agreed to offer its accredited quarantine facilities for when the antelope arrived in South Africa.

"This facility is used extensively due to its proximity to the OR Tambo International Airport," City Parks said in a statement at the time.

"In terms of accepted industry practice, the zoo negotiated that in lieu of the service fee for the use of its quarantine facilities, that two of the sitatunga will be retained by the zoo, for its conservation programme."

When the antelope arrived in South Africa the correct documentation was lacking, especially for the schmallenberg virus, found in Europe.

The agriculture, forestry and fisheries department then tried to return the antelope. However, Germany, via Lufthansa airlines, was unwilling to accept the animals.

City Parks said the department and state veterinarian took an informed decision to euthanise the antelopes on 3 August because they were injured, dehydrated, and traumatised.

Johannesburg Zoo did not attempt to import the antelope illegally, and subscribed to the principles of Waza and PAAZAB, Moodley said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  conservation  |  animals

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