Zoo animals are generally under extreme stress on account of their frightful living conditions. Most of them are confined to small cages and living spaces in largely unnatural surroundings of concrete and iron. But animals in the Karachi Zoological Gardens face graver woes than that — in spite of last year’s launch of an uplift project there. Health and sanitation are clearly the biggest headaches at present. And with every passing day the situation is getting worse. The zoo administration has been helpless against the lack of cleaning staff — as many as 80 posts are lying vacant at the facility. The provincial authorities can be faulted for this staff shortage because it has shown little or no interest in resolving the issue which is linked to a freeze on provincial recruitment.
It is not known whether the Karachi zoo is accredited to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums but one thing is for sure had it been a member it would probably face expulsion over unsanitary conditions and a host of other violations. The conditions have triggered a health scare and zookeepers have observed drastic changes in animal behaviour since then. For instance, larger caged animals such as the elephants and the Bactrian camel are ailing and need emergency attention. Confined to small enclosures, the elephants have just not been able to grow their tusks while the camel appears to be in a bad way. A rapid deployment of cleaners would help but not make much of a difference. The caged creatures need access to more than one veterinarian who is currently tending to 800 animals. It is however the uplift project that promises to bring real change as it entails the creation of a cage-free environment that will serve the needs of each animal. We watch these developments with interest.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2018.
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