LAHORE: The Lahore Safari Zoo is no longer a wildlife park as it has been turned into a children’s amusement facility with different rides and games.
Once known for its sprawling lawns, the safari zoo appears to be cramped for space and is an eyesore due to the unauthorised food stalls and shops.
Chinkara deer gives birth at zoo
A favourite spot for animal lovers and tourists, the serenity of the facility has been disrupted by noisy electrical toys and machines.
To make things worse, private vendors are charging exorbitant amounts from visitors for the use of mechanical toys which were installed by the government. The lion safari, bird aviary and other wild animal enclosures attracted a large number of visitors in the past, but its nomenclature has been changed with the installation of different mechanical and electric rides, and swings for the children by private developers.
Instead of acquiring more land to expand the Lahore Zoo Safari, its existing land is being squeezed by building administrative offices and other projects. At the same time, the First Aid Medical Centre building, which is part of the huge administrative block, is not functioning.
Besides, the pedestrian walkways are also in shambles, while the security situation is deplorable with iron fencing eroding away. These gaps not only pose a security risk for visitors, but also provide an opportunity to poachers.
Sidra Irshad, who was visiting the park with relatives from Karachi, said the recreational facility is no longer a place of tranquility or natural beauty. “The noise and unauthorised food stalls have become a nuisance, while pollution is another environmental hazard for the wildlife present,” she added.
Babur Imran, a supervisor at the Lahore Zoo Safari, said the wildlife department secretary requested the government for more funds to add physical facilities in the park, but the money was not released. “The brick wall around the park could not be built for lack of funds, however, efforts are being made to put up the structure and ensure security,” he maintained.
Junaid Riaz Chatha, a sports manager at a private college, urged Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif to restore the Lahore Safari Zoo to its original grandeur and increase the number of animals.
The Lahore Zoo Safari, formerly the Woodland Wildlife Park, was established in 1982 over an area of 242 acres. The funds for the public facility were provided by the government. Later, in 1998, it was handed over to the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department by the forest department.
Zoo Safari project to start soon
The wildlife department officials soon came up with a plan. In 2004, the largest walkthrough aviary of Pakistan was constructed in the facility and was opened for visitors. In addition, other facilities like boating and fishing were also built near a lake in the park’s premises. The lake is the biggest in the city and consists of four islands.
In 2006, the Government of Pakistan sanctioned Rs87 million to reconstruct a two-kilometre long road leading to the wildlife park to make it more accessible for commuters and visitors. There are also safari tracks in the lion and Bengal tiger areas, covering an area of 80 acre.
On January 21, 2009, the park was extensively renovated and renamed the Lahore Zoo Safari.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2018.