The Salem Division of the Forest Department on Tuesday asked the Public Works Department to surrender animals and reptiles that it had kept in a mini-zoo maintained inside the Mettur Dam Park in Salem.
The request came after the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) ordered closure of the zoo for functioning without permission and also fears over an illegal trade in animals.
On Tuesday, PWD officials met with representatives of Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT) and the Forest Department to explore the possibility of continuing the zoo. However, they were told to strictly abide by the CZA’s order or risk facing prosecution.
For several years, Mettur Dam park has maintained a mini-zoo where some protected species were kept.
Officials said that eighteen months ago, a team of Forest Department officials had inspected the mini-zoo and found that the PWD had not obtained permission to operate the park.
Subsequently, the PWD was asked to surrender the animals until it got permission from the CZA. Later, the PWD released four new-born pythons to the wild. Howev-
er, park authorities delayed in obtaining nod following which WNCT took up the issue. WNCT representatives and Forest officials inspected the zoo on Saturday.
The CZA confirmed that the PWD had not been accorded approval to maintain animals in captivity, and was instructed to surrender the animals. The CZA added that the PWD officials concerned could be prosecuted under the Wild Life Act.
According to S Sharavanan, trustee of WNCT, park authorities had failed to maintain records of the number of animals, new breeds and deaths. He said “an illegal trade in reptiles is flourishing in the Mettur Dam Park due to the callous attitude of PWD officials.” He added that WNCT had written to the district forest officer, conservator and to wildlife warden to make the PWD surrender animals and close down the mini-zoo.