Court irked at authorities over deaths of animals at Islamabad Zoo

Hints at contempt proceedings against climate change minister, secretary; summons wildlife management board


Saqib Bashir August 03, 2020
Islamabad zoo entrance gate. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) summoned the chairperson of the Wildlife Management Board and the secretary of ministry of climate change, sought names of wildlife officials, and hinted at contempt of court proeedings against Climate Change Minister Zartaj Gul and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, on Monday.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah was hearing the case pertaining to deaths of animals at Islamabad Zoo. The court expressed its annoyance at the federal government.

It appears that the animals died due to incompetence of the Wildlife Management Board, observed the court.

According to the May 21 ruling, the board was to be responsible for the transfer of animals, remarked the court, adding that on March 16 the notification of the wildlife management board was submitted with approval of the federal cabinet.

The court was informed that the lions are being shifted to Lahore instead of a sanctuary, recalled the court. The ministry of climate change seems to be more interested on taking control of the management than in the transfer of animals, the court observed.

Who has appeared from the ministry of climate change, inquired Justice Minallah.

The petitioner's lawyer stated that the lions were being shifted to Lahore when they died.

The court observed that this pointed towards incompetence of the board. The climate change ministry, Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, and the Capital Developement Authority are all engaging in politics, remarked Justice Minallah. "No one was prepared to take responsibility for the zoo," he added.

Reminding that the court had asked in its earlier decision as to who would be responsible if anything happened to the animals, Justice Minallah directed Deputy Attorney General Tayyab Shah to read the court's earlier decision with regards to the zoo.

Justice Minallah observed that the federal government had notified who would be on the board. "Who is the SAPM on climate change?" asked Justice Minallah. Noting that Zartaj Gul is the minister for climate change, Justice Minallah wondered whether it would be best to initiate contempt of court proceedings against all the members of the board.

Justice Minallah expressed anger at the incompetency that led to the deaths of animals. He asked whether an FIR has been registered for the negligence and inquired about the investigation into the matter.

He asked whether the ones whose negligence led to the deaths are the ones investigating the matter.

Directing his ire towards the federal government and the wildlife management board, Justice Minallah sought details of the officials and adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.

Animals at the zoo are being transferred to other zoos or private sanctuaries across the country following directions from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to protect them from mismanagement at the zoo. However, the process has proved to be deadly for some wild animals.

So far, as many as 10 animals held at the zoo have died over the past month during attempts to transfer them to sanctuaries due to the alleged incompetence and negligence of the caretakers.

In May, the IHC had directed to shift all animals from Islamabad Zoo to sanctuaries, local or abroad, due to the poor state of the zoo.

The court had also handed over the management of the zoo to Islamabad Wildlife Management Board from Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Climate Change has set up a high-level inquiry committee to probe the deaths of animals at the Islamabad Zoo.

A statement issued by the ministry last week, stated that committee will be chaired by the Ministry of Climate Change Additional Secretary Joudat Ayaz, and it will look into the causes of the recent deaths of animals at the zoo including lions, ostrich and other animals if any.

Muhammad Saleem, the ministry’s media focal person and deputy director, said that the IHC had tasked the board to ensure the safe and harmless transfer of animals from the zoo to wildlife sanctuaries. But, it has been brought to the notice of the ministry that deaths have occurred due to poor management and poor feeding arrangements over which the ministry was quite concerned, he said.

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