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AUGUST 08 2007 ISSUE 231


The scene is reminiscent of the 1999 Hollywood movie Lake Placid. The stillness of the water is barely broken as a pair of beady muddy brown eyes appears on the surface. You would be forgiven for mistaking it for floating debris as it silently submerges again. With a plentiful supply of fish, the small lake that has been a part of the Qurm Natural Park since Tropical Cyclone Gonu has been home to an alligator that escaped from the privately owned zoo inside the park almost two months ago. Although the park remains closed to the public, the animal has been a constant threat to the municipal workers who have been working there for the past two months. “We see it every day since it comes up to the surface every now and then,” said a municipal worker, on condition of anonymity. Volunteers of the non-profit Animal Rescue Centre (ARC), who helped the zoo’s owner Ahmad Jamal al Deen care for his animals, reckon that the reptile had managed to escape from its enclosure and walked the 50 odd metres to the water during the chaos that followed in the wake of the cyclone. Of the three alligators that had been brought to the zoo during Muscat Festival, one died earlier while the other injured its snout while trying to dig its way out of the enclosure. When asked about the escaped reptile, Ahmad initially denied that there were any animals that were on the loose. But on further probing he said that he had cast fishing nets in the lake to contain the animal. Other zoo animals too have disappeared from their enclosures. “There were two foxes in the zoo. One died and the other one probably

dug its way out of the cage,” said Mathew Carney, who works for Ahmad. “The snake had escaped too, but luckily it was caught before it could get out of the park premises,” said a volunteer for the ARC. It is easy to see why these animals are desperate to escape. They have been kept in absolute squalor and neglect. Many of the cages are still filled with debris following the cyclone. Two buckets of dirty water, from which the pelicans were seen drinking, had been brought over a week ago. Battered from their ordeal during the cyclone, a few of the birds died earlier. “The vulture died some days ago. A staff member brought the carcass over inside a sack,” said the volunteer. Ahmad, however, denied that the bird had died of neglect. “I have had these animals for the last 18 years. It is preposterous to suggest that I have not taken care of them all this while. The bird died of old age,” he insisted. Of the carcass, no one seemed to know what happened to it eventually. Meanwhile, the ARC, in a bid to rescue the animals, appealed to the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, Environment and Water Resources (MRMEWR), for help. “We are seriously concerned about the condition of these animals. We are awaiting the ministry’s response,” said Christina Harrison, chairperson of the ARC. The ministry, however, has already reached a conclusion. “We have decided to ask him (Ahmad) to take his animals out of Oman. We received complaints about the condition of the animals and the size of the cages in the zoo even before the ARC got involved. When we met the owner, he said that the complaints were an exaggeration,” said Saleh al Saadi, head of the Biodiversity Permits Section, MRMEWR. “The law regarding animals and their welfare pertains only

to species found naturally in Oman. As a result, we cannot confiscate these animals since there is no law that allows us to do so,” he added. Saleh, however, said that he had no idea about the escaped alligator. Ahmad had brought the animals during the last Muscat Festival in January and later expressed his desire to build a permanent zoo at the park. “A no objection certificate, without which he would have been unable to approach the Muscat Municipality, was issued to him,” said Saleh. After the complaints from individuals and the appeal from the ARC, however, the ministry is wary of issuing any certificate for similar purposes in the future. “Henceforth, we will instruct any interested party, if any, to first construct the park and have the cages ready. The animals will be allowed in only at the very end,” Saleh informed.

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ANIMALS AT THE ZOO Bear Lions Leopards Hyenas Alligators Goats Deer Foxes Ostriches Baboons Monkeys Snakes Pelicans Vulture

1 2 2 2 (both injured) 3 (1 dead, 1 injured, 1 escaped) 4 4 2 (1 dead, the other escaped) 2 4 5 1 (escaped and recaptured) 5 1 (dead)


Gator Loose Story  
Gator Loose Story  

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