In his recent visit to the Karachi Zoo, Sindh’s Forest Minister Nasir Hussain Shah offered his assistance for establishing a larger safari park, spread over thousands of acres of land, primarily for research. This is rather frightening considering that more animals will continue to suffer under the mismanagement of authorities who are all hat and no cattle.
The sordid state of zoos not only in Sindh but all across Pakistan is indicative of the fact that negligence and corruption are deeply rooted in institutions overlooking wildlife protection. Furthermore, the tragic instances of animals “mysteriously” dropping dead or developing severe physical and psychological disorders are a clear reflection of the deplorable conditions that animals are forced to live in — cramped up in small shabby cages, without adequate food or water. What is all the more shocking is that 52 private zoos are allowed to function in the province under Section-10 of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972, which permits for the setting up of a private zoo on payment of a prescribed fee to the Sindh Wildlife Department. Does the department have enough provisions to access and regulate these zoos considering the conditions of their own?
Many now claim that there is a serious need to upgrade zoos in order to meet international standards. However, considering their dwindling conditions over the past decade, it is highly likely that upgrades will be sustainable in the long run. Even though the respected minister highlighted the importance of wildlife research and scientific study in his visit, such initiatives cannot come at the cost of animal life. Until the provincial government is ready to make a serious long-term commitment, it is imperative that zoos across the province are shut down in order to relieve animals from their suffering. If a safari park is to be made, it should be built in a natural environment without cages, instead of an urban mega-city, so that these animals can peacefully and humanely co-exist in their natural habitat. The matter has been overlooked far too often now.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2021.
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