At a time when Pakistanis are comfortable being cruel to other human beings, it seems a bit much to ask for humane treatment of animals. The Karachi zoo recently acquired two new baby elephants. In theory, they should be better cared for at a facility that is purposebuilt for the care of animals. However, the life of zoo animals is quite miserable. Part of the problem lies in poor management and poor strategy. For instance, Emma, a black bear was moved to Karachi to save her dying species by allowing her to breed. Unfortunately, the city government forgot to provide her with a male companion.
Such blunders seem to be commonplace across the country, in part because the purse strings are placed in the hands of bureaucrats who know, and care, little about animals. The local governments should consider providing the zoo management control over their own finances so that they can properly do the job they have been assigned.
But while the management of zoos seems to be about as inefficient as anything else in government, what really makes the lives of animals miserable is the horrible cruelty with which they are treated by visitors. It seems that far too many people who visit zoos feel that hurting an animal for the sake of entertainment is acceptable. This represents a serious failure on the part of both our society and our schools in the moral education of our population. Inflicting pain on a caged creature incapable of defending itself is cowardly, cruel and morally repugnant. Perhaps the city government should consider a campaign to educate the public and inculcate more humane values. We may just end up treating human beings better as well.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 19th, 2010.