Silent tragedy continues at zoo with two new reported fatalities
KARACHI: Due to the decades-long absence of regulatory laws, the Karachi zoo continues to function as a deathtrap for animals, with a two-month-old fawn and a peacock the latest victims. Both animals lost their lives last week, it emerged on Monday.
Earlier, according to sources, a jackal had also lost its life.
“Perhaps, the recent deaths were due to the cold. The jackal, however, died of the injuries it had suffered in a fight with another animal,” a zoo staffer told Dawn on condition of anonymity, alleging that its wounds were not properly taken care of which ultimately took its life.
According to him, the increasing population of crows in the zoo, pollution in and around the facility considering its location in a heavily congested area, and unhygienic conditions, further contributed to death and disease among the animals.
“But, the major reason is administrative and political. The zoo is a source of earning for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), which it would never want to lose,” a former KMC official said, adding that the facility has largely remained under directors that had no experience in wildlife or handling captive animals.
The lower staff, largely recruited on political basis, is equally unqualified. The post of director hasn’t been advertised for decades because the government is only interested in making money, he added.
Official apathy and incompetence could be gauged from the fact that the zoo administration wasn’t bothered to discover the cause of an illness seriously affecting a lioness until the issue was raised by the media.
The zoo’s attempt to muster media support over her illness failed when the staff couldn’t draw blood samples from the sedated lioness for over an hour in front of journalists invited to witness the procedure.
The hair samples acquired from her were sent to a private laboratory for analysis.
None of the big cats except the pumas have been able to breed at the zoo. Officials willing to speak off the record blame this problem on the past administration that purchased sterilised animals.
The zoo director was not available for comments whereas the zoo vet declined to talk when approached during a visit to the facility. He also refused to share the lab report concerning the lioness’ illness, saying that it had been forwarded to the “higher-ups”.
According to sources, the zoo showed ‘some administrative improvement’ when former commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui formed a zoo advisory committee comprising experts from both private and public sector in 2015.
The body, they said, held regular meetings, listened to criticism and gave directives to sort out problems at the facility. This continued till June last year when Asif Hyder Shah, who followed Mr Siddiqui as commissioner, was removed unceremoniously.
Since then, no meeting of the advisory committees has been held.
“Though we couldn’t bring any major positive change, the body provided an opportunity to independent experts and representatives of the media to raise questions about the zoo’s affairs. Now, things are back to square one,” said a zoo advisory committee member.
The zoo lost at least eight animals last year, according to media reports. These animals included three puma cubs; the staff blamed one death on malnutrition, the other on tetanus while the third cub was mauled to death by an adult puma in whose cage it ‘accidentally’ fell in.
The facility also lost three black bucks in what the staff described as a “mutual fight”, a Bengal tiger from “sudden kidney failure” and a macaw which died from injuries received in a collision with the cage’s iron grille.