Administrative failure: Short-staffed Karachi zoo aiding animal neglect

Stressed keepers face immense workload in having to tend to several furry occupants daily

Syed Ashraf Ali March 24, 2022


Amidst the death of a lion due to a highly contagious disease and a slew of administrative issues including a food shortage for animals, the Karachi zoo’s persistent short-staffing problem has bubbled over.

Established during the British Raj, the Karachi Zoo covers a mammoth 43 acres of land, and is home to about 750 animals and birds, which are housed in 117 cages. However, only a measly 14 keepers are responsible for the feeding, caring, and cleaning of the cages of the zoo’s furry occupants.

The staff shortages are not recent though, the historic zoo has not recruited additional workforce since 1997 due to a ban on new recruits by the Sindh government - a period of 25 years.

Syed Khursheed Ali, a wildlife journalist who has reported on the running of the zoo previously, termed the staffing situation as problematic, while talking to the Express Tribune. Ali said that if appointments were not made soon, the existing staff would crumble under the pressure of tending to so many animals and birds.

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“The existing staff needs relief and new recruitments are the only way to sort the current issues of the zoo amicably,” he suggested.

Several of the zoo’s issues came to the surface towards the end of last year, when allegations of the zoo not feeding its animals properly or tending to them were leveled against the zoo administration, which led to a social media onslaught with citizens posting videos of malnourished lions housed at the zoo and demanded immediate action. The death of the rare female white lion due to tuberculosis, only a few days later, exacerbated the problem further for the administration.

However, despite the online outrage, the Express Tribune learned that out of the 233 posts in Karachi Zoo and Landhi Korangi Zoo, 93 are vacant and 20 of which are for zookeepers. The zookeeper shortage means that one zookeeper has to tend to at least 8 cages and roughly 53 animals.

Shamo, who is one of the zookeepers at the Karachi zoo and has been associated with it for several years, while talking to the Express Tribune, complained about the enormous work pressure on him and his colleagues.

“My responsibilities include caring for a pair of lions, bears, monkeys, and crocodiles. I clean their cages and take care of their food supply,” he informed. Shamo stated that apart from the high number of animals to tend to, his Rs 29,000 salary was not enough for the risks associated with his job.

“We get a risk allowance of Rs 50 only for tending to the lions,” he despondently remarked. Similarly, other workers at the zoo are unhappy with the extreme workload as well. A sanitary worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Express Tribune that there were only four sanitary workers employed.

“The four of us have to manage cleaning for this huge zoo, which is a burdensome task,” he lamented. Employee discontentment aside, the administrative issues of the zoo coupled with negligent care of animals led Karachi Administrator Barrister Murtaza Wahab, to not only call the zoo administration as the ‘zoo mafia’ but also suspend Khalid Hashmi, the Senior Director of Karachi Zoo.

Hashmis’s replacement, Dr Mansoor Qazi, while talking to the Express Tribune, conceded that the zoo was indeed short staffed and the workload on the staff was immense. Lamenting about the zoo’s growing problems, Qazi stated: “A total of 93 posts are vacant due to retirement or demise of staff in previous years.

There are 20 vacancies for keepers, 33 for security guards, 37 for financiers, and 4 for sweepers. The posts of a veterinarian and a dispenser are also vacant. We have requested the Sindh Government to recruit for all these posts and create two additional posts for veterinary doctors so that the animals are no longer neglected.”


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