KARACHI : The Sindh Wildlife (SWL) Conservator Taj Muhammad Shaikh on Thursday called for a probe into the alleged presence of a chained lion in cricketer Shahid Afridi’s home after a video of the incident went viral.
Shaikh confirmed that the lion’s owner was one Hassan Hussain who also held the animal’s license, adding “we will find out what the lion was doing in Afridi’s home.” The conservator said that the investigation would start after Eid.
Meanwhile, Hussain, who owns the animal, said he has the license along with a travel permit. “I even informed the SWL department before taking my lion to Afridi’s home,” he said adding that Afridi has his detractors who are just trying to defame him.
Photos of Afridi with the lion went viral on social media last week with the cricketer and his six-year-old daughter posing with the feline in their home.
Almost three years ago Hussain bought a South African seven-month-old lion cub as well as a six-month-old lioness from Lahore for Rs1.5 million.
Since the cubs were more than six months old when they were purchased, Hussain said that they could not be tamed and he had to cage them on the roof of a friends house.
Later, he said that the couple gave birth to two male lion cubs, one of which they brought to their home and named Simba. According to Hussain, lions can be domesticated if they are reared by their master from birth. Since then Simba is living like a family member with them.
The license’s jurisdiction, he said is only within the limits of Karachi. However, license branch in-charge Rashid Agha told The Express Tribune that wild animals can only be kept inside a zoo, as they only issue them permits.
The permit, he said is issued after inspection by their team.
The department issues the licences as per the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972 and Guidelines for the Acquisition and Management of Felines (Cat Species) in Captivity from the Ministry of Climate Change.
According to documents, the guidelines have been developed with the purpose to control illegal trade of big cats and unjustified acquisition of animals for zoo exhibits, overlooking the higher objectives of conservation and education.
The document explains that wild felines can only be housed at registered facilities.
Individuals cannot keep wild felines at their homes, as they do not contribute to education, research or conservation and this is not in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and can be dangerous.
Such an action is liable to punishment under Section 289 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), 1860 and Section 133 (public nuisance) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1989.
The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) – Pakistan’s technical adviser, Uzma Khan, who has authored the guideline document, told The Express Tribune that although the guidelines have been approved by the Ministry of Climate Change and the provinces, they have not been made into a law yet as they have not been passed by the assemblies.
She said that local government laws, however, clearly state that any animal that can cause public nuisance cannot be brought openly into public places and the relevant district commissioner’s officer or police station would have to take action against any such violation.
She explained that the wildlife act for exotic species is extremely weak. “If someone purchases an exotic species from a local breeder, the wildlife act wouldn’t be applicable on them,” she lamented adding that a public figure like Afridi should keep such legalities in mind.