The administration at the Lahore Zoo appears to be in two minds about the decision to euthanise its terminally ill residents -- primarily due to fear of public backlash.
According to details available with the Express Tribune, at least three animals, who appear to be terminally ill or have some form of physical disability, have become a challenge for the zookeepers.
“Every possible effort has been made for the treatment of these animals. According to local and foreign experts, they cannot recover,” revealed Kiran Saleem, who serves as the zoo’s deputy director. “This leaves us with no option, but to put them down,” she added.
On the list to be euthanised, the deputy director said, is an aging, physically challenged tiger, an adult female horse, and a blind bear. However, fear of public backlash has kept the zoo administration from implementing the decision to put these animals to death.
Euthanasia, Saleem explained, is a common practice and zookeepers around the world employ it to relieve pain and suffering, particularly in an event the animal is terminally ill and is showing no signs of recovery.
Dr. Warda Gill, who serves as the veterinary officer at the Lahore Zoo, explained that animals are often suffering from incurable diseases. “In such cases the only option we have is to euthanise them,” she said.
Commenting on the state of these animals, Honorary Game Warden Badar Munir said: “Knowing their condition, this is the only option the zoo has.” Referring to the practice at the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark, he said, the administration routinely puts several exotic animals to death, including gazelles, and hippopotamuses.
The warden characterized the decision to euthanise the terminally ill animals as “a compassionate option,” but animal rights advocates disagreed.
“It is absolutely unimaginable. I can’t even begin to imagine how much pain they might have to go through during the process,” said Asra, a Lahore-based activist. While some disapproved euthanasia, others said it was ‘alright’ to end the suffering humanely.
Another Lahore-based animal rights activist urged the zoo to follow international guidelines on euthanasia and limit the practice to severely ill and elderly animals only. “A decision to put an animal to death is a complex ethical matter and must be debated appropriately before execution,” he said.
Recalling an incident from 2014, he said, putting animals to death without a valid reason can generate outrage. “A few years ago, a zoo in Denmark, created a backlash on social media after it killed a healthy 18-month-old giraffe. “Such actions cannot be taken unilaterally. There should be a committee that debates the decision,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2021.