With the condition of zoos and the animals there admittedly deplorable, experts called for rethinking the fundamental approach towards animals, zoos and conservations apart from enhancing greater citizen involvement in resolving management issues at zoos.
This was stated by experts during a seminar on“The State of Zoos in Pakistan: Searching for Humanity” organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI). The seminar came at a critical time when the state of zoos, particularly in the federal capital were laid bare in a recent court case.
Center for Culture and Development Executive Director Dr Nadeem Tarar said that animals are part of human habitat and that the same humanity must be extended to all species who share space on the one Earth.
Unfortunately, he said that there is a general culture of denial of rights for animals who are reduced to the status of an object.
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Terming zoos as prisons where animals are being kept as innocent prisoners, Dr Tarar said that the inefficiency of zoo management, poor governance structure and the lack of accountability were largely responsible for the miserable condition of zoos around the country.
He stated that there is a need to educate the general public about the rights of animals and the only way to do that is through civic engagement. Moreover, citizen liaison committees can be set up to help protect animals at zoos and wildlife parks in the country where they can report on malpractices and mismanagement.
Dr Imran Khalid, the head of the Climate Change Unit and an SDPI research fellow SDPI, highlighted the history and evolution of zoos along with global best practices. He further said that zoos can serve to educate us about the value of biodiversity amid catastrophic impacts of climatic change on endangered species.
Environmental degradation and extreme weather events in the form of heat-waves and droughts not only negatively impact humans but also other species who require protection as well.
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“The state of zoos in Pakistan is questionable on many fronts including capacity gap, lack of skilled human resources, poor infrastructure and lack of security,” he lamented, urging authorities to take responsibility for conserving zoos and wildlife parks as per international standards. Biodiversity Specialist Dr Ejaz Ahmed said that the state of zoos and wildlife parks in the country was unfortunate. He added that these facilities have an important role to play in the conservation of extinct species.
He called on the need for educating the public, especially visitors about the importance of animal conservation and biodiversity for the ecosystem.
However, the authorities need to take care of the animals’ food, health and provide a recreational environment as per international standards, he said.
Comsats University BioScience Department Scientific Officer Katie Sipra stressed on the for of conservation of animals who are confined in zoos through better animal management, research, recreation and educational programmes.
She said that zoos should employ highly-trained individuals who are passionate about their profession.
Zoos and wildlife parks should be accredited and must meet international standards which include living environments, social groupings, nutrition, enrichment, veterinary programmes, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures and physical facilities, she added.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2019.