Established in 1981 and formerly known as Woodland Wildlife Park, the Lahore Zoo Safari is one of the oldest captive-animal parks in the city. Yet however, owing to a variety of reasons, many of the zoo’s recently imported animals have remained unable to breed, as they inch towards their natural life expectancies.
Among these animals, are three giraffes which were brought to the zoo in the year 2018. One of the three giraffes, a female, had reportedly died a few days after arrival, leaving behind a male and a female. The pair, now a centre of attraction for the park’s many visitors, seldom affords the calm and privacy needed for wild animals to breed.
Although, there are a few other giraffes housed in certain private facilities across the city, they too have had little luck breeding in captivity, for more less the same reasons.
Similarly, the zoo’s rhinos and hippopotamuses have also met the same fate, remaining unable to produce a single calf to date.
When questioned about the matter, Zoo Director Chaudhry Shafqat Ali said that the primary purpose of zoos is not to breed animals but to provide education and information about wildlife. If an animal happens to give birth in the process, the baby is an added bonus for the zoo. “However, if breeding is intended, the animals need to be provided with an enclosure similar to their natural habitat, which is difficult to offer in a zoo,” the director told/ “As for the giraffes in question, they need vast open land and a peaceful environment to successfully reproduce. Hippopotamuses on the other hand breed underwater. At the zoo, we neither have the space for enclosures big enough for the giraffes or for pools deep enough for the hippos to be submerged,” he added.
According to Shafqat Ali, mismatched pairing is another reason keeping wildlife animals from breeding at the safari park. “Often times one of the two animals is either too old or too young, which hinders successful pairing. While other times, there is also the possibility of one of the two animals being impotent, due to which the pair cannot reproduce,” he opined.
Per a senior wildlife officials, a pair of black jaguars was brought to the Lahore Safari Park a few years ago, but the couple hasn’t been able to give birth to a single cub to this day. Interestingly enough, the reason in this case is not lack of enclosure space or privacy, but a fraudulent trade made with the zoo. “Turns out, the contractor had given the park a pair of two female jaguars, instead of a male and a female, which was only revealed months after they were brought,” official disclosed. “Big cats are often shipped in locked wooden crates and run away as soon as they’re let out, which makes it impossible to determine sex before release,” he added.
In an interesting revelation, the Punjab Wildlife official also disclosed that out of the 18 lions given to Pakistan by the UAE in 2018, none happen to be capable of breeding. Sources privy to the matter allege that companies and contractors may intentionally be shipping sterile animals. Yet however, considering that female jaguars are more expensive than males, it more likely that the contractor shipping big cats to the Lahore Zoo Safari made a logistical mistake on his end.
Speaking on the matter, Punjab Wildlife Honorary Game Warden Badr Munir maintained that absence of natural environment and privacy is the primary reason behind lack of breeding for animals in captivity. “Breeding centers have been set up in Punjab, but at present we do not have such centers where valuable and rare animals like giraffe, rhino and hippopotamus can be bred. There are sanctuaries for breeding animals where they roam freely but we have very limited population so we cannot leave them in sanctuaries either,” the warden asserted.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2020.
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