Coming just a few days after they were born, the deaths of three cubs at the Karachi zoo come, as quite a shock. A fourth cub too is feared dead, with zoo authorities saying it has either run away or been eaten by the mother lion. Shocking though it may be, surprising it isn’t. Conditions at Karachi zoo have been getting progressively worse and it was only a matter of time before it lead to the premature deaths of animals there. Zoo officials are deflecting the blame from themselves, saying that the cubs were trampled to death by the lion. But there is a fear, probably justified, that the cubs died as a result of not being protected from rain.
It is worth noting that the cubs were born to lions who were illegally brought to Pakistan and thus confiscated and given to the zoo. Clearly there needs to be some restriction on which animals are allowed into the country and the process of bringing even the most harmless pets into Pakistan needs to be strictly regulated. But the policy of handing these animals over to Karachi zoo must be reconsidered in light of the death of the cubs.
The local government may also want to look at wider problems at the Karachi zoo. There have been several reports of animals being mistreated. Trying to privatise the zoo could be one solution. Also, many countries are doing away with the concept of keeping animals caged for the viewing pleasure of paying visitors. Instead they prefer keeping animals in their natural habitats so as not to cause them any undue suffering. This is where groups like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the WWF should get involved to ensure that zoo authorities are held accountable for their mistakes. In a city where human life is given such low priority, care for animals may be too much to ask for. But how we treat helpless animals is also indicative of our level of humanity.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2011.