Owing to loopholes in wildlife laws and the negligence of relevant authorities, influential people from Karachi and other cities of Sindh are raising lions, tigers, and other wild animals in small private zoos and farmhouses.
Animal rights activists say that keeping lions in private zoos or farmhouses is a dangerous practice. Not only can the presences of lions lead to attacks or fatal accidents, the big cats are often not taken care of correctly either.
Across the province, rich people raise lions at their private zoos to show off their wealth, while businessmen breed and sell these beasts at exorbitant prices.
In the absence of concrete action from the authorities concerned, buyers and sellers have formed a well-organised network. However, the practice is not carried out publically. People belonging to the elite class exhibit their lions and tigers to friends and associates, while businesspersons secretly buy and sell them.
According to sources at the Sindh Wildlife Department, there are several ambiguities in the existing wildlife laws because of which lions, tigers, and other dangerous animals are being nurtured in many places in Karachi and other cities of Sindh. They added that the network has influential and political backing because of which legal action cannot be taken against the parties involved.
The sources further said that the Sindh government legally issues licenses to private zoos but does not specify which animals can be kept therein. As a result, private zoo owners and breeders take advantage of this loophole in the law.
An official of the Sindh Wildlife Department referred to a recent incident where four tigers and two lions had been found kept in bad conditions in a private mini zoo in Gulshan-e-Muazzam, a residential area of Karachi.
“Some of the lions got out of the cage, spreading fear and panic in the area. Under the current laws, such beasts cannot be kept in residential areas,” he said. “The Sindh Wildlife Department took immediate action after receiving the information and confiscated the tigers. They are now being shifted to a non-residential area.”
The official added that the owner of the cubs had been ordered to auction off the animals within 45 days, with animal rights organisations and government authorities able to participate in the process.
“If the auction is not held within the stipulated time, then by law, the lions and tigers will become the property of Karachi Zoo,” he said.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Society for the Protection of Animal Rights president Zain Mustafa said that lions and other carnivores were being kept in atrocious conditions in private zoos in Karachi and other parts of Sindh.
“The cages of these animals are ridiculously small, and their location is also inappropriate. Sometimes, they are kept under direct sunlight all day, which can be detrimental to their health. Some of them also fall sick or become depressed because of the unnatural environment,” he said. “We have demanded that the Sindh government enforce strict laws to protect the rights of animals.”
Sindh Wildlife Department conservator Javed Ahmed Maher, meanwhile, said that new laws for the protection of animals have been passed by the Sindh Assembly.
“The draft has been sent to the Sindh Governor for approval. Once approved, these laws will be implemented with immediate effect,” he said. “Under the law, private zoo owners will be allowed to keep certain types of herbivores. However, lions, tigers, and other carnivores will not be allowed. Strict action will be taken against those violating the rules.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2020.