Animal rights activists to suggest measures for zoo uplift
KARACHI: Amid shrill screams, intense pounding by two chimps confined separately in tiled-floor cages, a group of activists took down notes and shared their ideas at the zoo on Friday morning to see how the facility could be turned into a home where each animal had freedom to enjoy its specific natural habitat and visitors, especially children, got ample opportunities to learn about animal behaviour.
Their meeting took place in the backdrop of provincial government’s plans to induct more animals and upgrade the facility as per international standards for which it has initially allocated an amount of Rs30 million.
Media reports suggest that the total amount of funds to be released over a year comes to around Rs1 billion.
“We plan to submit a comprehensive document on zoo improvement to the government, with the hope that this amount wouldn’t be wasted and spent for the welfare of animals here,” said Zain Mustafa, an architect leading the group.
Being an animal lover, Mustafa has been involved in animal shelter initiatives in the city and was recently approached by a lawmaker to suggest ways and means to develop the facility on modern lines.
His group, he pointed out, had been regularly visiting the zoo since then and documenting the conditions animals were kept in.
“Since none of us have relevant expertise and there are hardly any experts in the country who are an authority on wildlife as well as on captive animals, we have contacted foreign experts, who are very much willing to help us,” he said.
Appreciating the cooperation extended by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) in zoo data collection, he said: “We are happy to see their desire to improve things. So far, they have been very responsive and cooperative.”
The zoo team, including former International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Pakistan, official Rumana Imam and lawyer Ghulam Asghar took a round of the facility and keenly observed animals behaviour.
On the top of animals priority list is a pair of chimps, an endangered species listed in the Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) that restricts their global trade.
“Chimps are intelligent creatures. Their loud cries, spitting and hitting as you see now show extreme depression,” Mahera Omar, a documentary film-maker representing the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in the group said, while showing concern over chimps behaviour.
Loneliness and unnatural environment seemed to have greatly affected their mental health, she believed, adding that zoo chimps and elephants should be sent to rehabs abroad so they could return to their normal behaviour.
“It’s criminal negligence to keep animals in conditions in which they couldn’t demonstrate their full natural behaviour. The African elephants caught from the wild, too, are kept in unnatural conditions here and need to be sent to sanctuaries abroad,” she observed.
The team expressed concern over the fact that a number of animals at the zoo were confined to small spaces, though the facility had huge vacant enclosures.
Currently, many animals at the zoo are either unpaired, for instance the Bactrian camel and the golden tabby tiger after the death of their partners, or forced to live alone, like in the case of rhesus monkeys and the chimps.
Found in forests in the wild, these monkeys are presently confined to tiled-floor filthy cages that have nothing to encourage and stimulate their natural behaviour.
Seven porcupines, a nocturnal species who rest during the day in hollow trees, logs and underground burrows, are housed in one small tiled-floor cage near a garbage dump. And it does not come as a surprise to see that they have eaten the floor.
“We believe that there should be by-laws and a zoo/Safari management committee comprising local and foreign experts to run these facilities. Until this is done, no new animal should be brought here,” Mustafa said.
The civil society, he noted, should come forward and contribute their bit towards welfare of captive animals. “Any person with a slight sense of consciousness would be disturbed by the plight of these animals. We must show them the love and affection that they rightly deserve.”