Where zoos & wildlife sanctuaries meet | By Ayaz Malik


Where zoos & wildlife sanctuaries meet

AS young kids our parents bought our first pet — a dog. It was both an exhilarating and frightening experience because we had never had a pet earlier. Within a couple of days Timmy (her name) became an integral part of our life and we formed a bond, which grew stronger with passing years.

As children, we were taught not to be cruel to animals, keep them well fed, cater to their various needs and so being humane – primarily, because a pet cannot speak. Time passed and before we knew ‘Timmy’ was a family member. Ensuing years saw a bevy of various pets entering our life and all of them got the same undying love and care that our first pet got.

What spurred this article to take form were recent reports about animals dying in zoos of the cities. A saddening affair! Question: why the animals died when authorities, which have undertaken the task of looking after and upkeep of animals were present.

Classify it as neglect, or consider, they were not being funded towards the same? Whatever the reason, the fact remains, valuable animals, imported from world over, time and again, have perished in the confines of zoos, which should be otherwise. This makes a zoo look a pretty daunting place for animals. But is it really so?

Then, there has been a debate. Debate about, setting up wildlife sanctuaries as alternatives to zoos, for wellbeing of animals. A good idea and it is bound to yield results, although, desired results? Wildlife sanctuaries exist in Pakistan since times of British rule. Certain areas were marked for wildlife and nature to nurture. You may still witness the old posts around the wildlife shelters across Pakistan. Yet, a wildlife sanctuary is of the nature that it is not accessible by everyone at the drop of a hat. Why so? Being set around suburbs, the general public does not have immediate access to a wildlife sanctuary. You have to plan in advance for a trip to a wildlife resort. I say so because I have visited more than my share of the same.

Zoos a daunting place for animals? Zoos were built keeping recreational value for the masses so were aquariums, museums and libraries. Sadly, they suffered a huge setback, seeing even the shut down of some, which is not a viable neither a productive action as children learn a lot from them. Being closer to animals and caring for them teaches children compassion. These places all come under the umbrella of recreation, most important to any culture. A mix of the city is planned so.

Wildlife Sanctuaries – habitats kept exactly how nature grew them – animals live free, given the environment, conducive to them. The acreage allows the animals to live and reproduce where they feel at home. Families visit sanctuaries to get a feeling, both of refreshing nature and a chance to be with the animals, like safaris. However, it is slightly difficult for the commoner to visit wildlife sanctuaries because trips are ideally made on heavy vehicles. Tickets or passes may be more expensive than a zoo.

Animals are in captivity at zoo and there is not much, offering them of their natural habitat. What is the solution for the creatures to be healthy and yet stay confined to zoos? Not a very difficult solution to ponder over. The key to keeping animals healthy and in full vigour is to shift them to the wildlife sanctuaries often. Similar to a timetable, which is designed to shift the animals on a regular basis especially at the time of giving birth, which is of crucial importance. Brought back, then to zoo for families and children to visit them till their next shift to sanctuaries.

On a tangent, consider the fact that when you bring an animal to your home to raise a pet — it is captivity. The animal is not free in its natural habitat no matter how much love is tendered. So, when we speak about animal freedom and cruelty, consider that we may have an animal, a pet confined within the walls of our home. Moreover, we get them neutered.

Therefore, whatever we say is subjective, because conditions vary and issues addressed on a ‘problem solution addressing’ platform are better where two schools of thought come together agreeing and keeping differences aside for a mutual and continuously beneficial outcome, in this case the well-being of animals.

—The writer is senior contributor to major Dailies & Magazines and Digital Media Strategist.


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