Eradicating zoo culture, a far-fetched thought? | By Mehr Jan

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Eradicating zoo culture, a far-fetched thought?


THE news of a rare white lion reportedly passing away in Karachi Zoo due to pneumonia complications has been making the rounds. But it isn’t so much the death but the kind of conditions the majestic and rare beast was being kept in which is generating buzz.

A team of veterinarians have suggested that the lion’s lungs failed upon him, deteriorating his condition.

However, looking into how zoos in Pakistan have always been under the radar for their sheer negligence, losing their animals due to horrible living conditions, it hardly comes as a surprise that this happened.

The tragic incident shines the spotlight on the country’s continuous failure in ensuring animal basic rights when creating such enclosures for public entertainment.

Global concern and public scrutiny have been on the rise and looking into the media coverage the neglected elephant Kaavan received last year, which was being held in the now shut down Islamabad (Marghazar) Zoo as he found his new home in Cambodia, it seemed the stories of animals in distress will die down for a while.

Yet, here we are again. Officials at the World-Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan state Pakistan’s Zoos are not kept as per the international standards set by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquarium (WAZA).

The report specified cages are not designed as prescribed; the feed is not nutritious and the medical facilities not up to the mark.

All the major cities of Pakistan have zoos as part of their public entertainment venues and for years, these zoos have been losing rare animals including ostriches, lion cubs, even nilgai, bears and leopards.

Records suggest more than 30 animals have died in the Peshawar Zoo alone since it was inaugurated in February 2018.

The statistics are alarming and highlight at what price such amusement is being brought to the masses?
It is high time the competent administrators stop turning a blind eye towards the implementation of quality measures in their operations.

The Zoo Advisory Committee on Animal Healthcare in the Capital Development Authority’s Environment Wing needs to emphasize the groundwork to be laid, to ensure civil and just conditions are given to animals kept at zoos.

However, reflecting upon our history of inefficiencies, ensuring the perfect equation to adapting recreational habitats with healthy and thriving animals is highly unlikely to be attained. But it needs to start somewhere.

Pakistan- a third world country offers its limited podiums of leisure activities and affirming how the public loves the up-close and personal experience with animals, while eradicating zoo cultures completely may seem impossible, here’s hoping small steps will be efficiently adapted to ensure quality measures for ‘humane’ animal confinements.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

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