The state of the two Bactrian camels at the Karachi Zoo perhaps provide the clearest example of the horrific conditions the animals live in. Crows picked away at a wound on the brown camel, which winced and shook itself to try and get the black birds off its back.
After some time, a shorter darkish Bactrian emerged in a crooked walk from its brick shed. A regular visitor said that the animal was limping because of a severe wound that was a few months old.
Another visitor, Dureen Ance Anwer said: “[They] had wounds all over their bodies and ... maggots had grown in. Crows were feeding on those maggots. Out of helplessness and pain, the camels would roll on the ground every time the crows gleaned with their pointy beaks”. A group of young school children approached the cage and called out to the two animals. The darker one, whose face was covered with flies, kept scraping its body against the cage, probably trying to get rid of an itch, while the brown camel remained aloof.
“Even though there are just a few attractions left in the zoo, the management has done a shoddy job of caring for them,” said teacher Shabana.
The Express Tribune contacted the zoo’s district officer Qazi Manzoor over the telephone which was disconnected after a short introduction on the nature of questions about the state of the zoo’s animals. When this correspondent went to his office, Manzoor abandoned his tea and rushed off, saying he had an urgent meeting. He refused to comment on the camels.
The premises, which some visitors there said was “much cleaner” now, was dusty with empty chips packets and plastic bottles lining the side of the walkway.
A healthy looking zebra strut around its bare, desert-like cage, seemingly hungry but there was no attendant in sight and the animal nibbled on the dusty ground. The zebra is living in circumstances nowhere close to its natural South African habitat. It finally settled for a few dry leaves which had dropped or scattered in one corner of the caged area.
Malika Noor Jehan and Madhubala, the two baby elephants, are a recent addition and play a strong role in attracting visitors back. But they were restless in their relatively tight cages which seemed barely four times their size. Madhubala paced up and down as she tried to reach out to visitors, clearly inviting someone to play with her. She extended her trunk to the driver passing her cage. She got a quick stroke but it seemed to do little to soothe her mood.
The fascinating Bengali tiger “seemed restless”, as one recent visitor commented. Its unease could be attributed to the limited space for movement. Its drinking water supply in the small puddle-like pool was murky. Still, in comparison, the tiger’s cage was much cleaner and well kept than that of other animals. In times of soaring inflation, five rupees doesn’t buy you much but a trip to Karachi Zoo does fit in that budget. It is debatable, however, how good that experience will be once you get to the 133-year-old garden.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 8th, 2011.