The Karachi Zoological Garden is hoping to add 48 new animals of 17 different species by next year if its proposals are accepted by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC).
The animals will cost KMC approximately Rs120 million, but zoo director Bashir Khan Saddozai said it all plays into the strategy of increasing revenue and revamping a zoo which was near collapse.
“No one had revamped this zoo since Farooq Sattar in 1992. Since then, animals had been dying and the place had become filthy,” says Saddozai. “Now we have at least 1,000 animals in 100 cages, we have fixed the fountains and have even restored the Mughal Garden.”
One tender worth Rs60 million has already been accepted by KMC for civil works in the zoo. It will not only give its 33 acres a facelift but also fix ailing infrastructure.
Although trash is still strewn about the zoo and cages are unkempt, with only withering dusty plants or a domestic cat, an improvement is also visible. Most of the zoo’s walkways have been cleaned up, the fountains are working, the lawns are freshly mowed and sanitation workers are busy picking up after irresponsible patrons.
“What are you doing? There is a dustbin right next to you and you’re tossing your wrappers on the ground and so are your kids,” a sanitation worker told a man with three children. “This is wrong, pick it up and put it in the dustbin.”
Cages are cleaned every second day but Saddozai said that the zoo barely has enough workers to maintain the place. “We only have about eight or nine sanitation workers and at least three of them usually take two to three days off in a week.”
Two sewerage lines at the zoo have also been repaired and the last one is expected to be fixed by June this year. The plans for the revamp include construction of Ameli Road, which has a canopy, benches, flower beds and a gift shop. Requests for additional renovations, such as the improvement of the ponds, maintenance of the food godown and the construction of a food court were not accepted.
“One major issue that the zoo has always faced is security. Women would be harrassed by young men and it became a nuisance for families,” pointed out the director. “Due to improved security, now we have 20,000 to 25,000 visitors on Sundays and anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 visitors on weekdays.”
More than 60 security personnel, including city wardens and the zoo’s own recruits, patrol the zoo in three shifts throughout the day.
“Charging a measly five to ten rupees per ticket a few years ago would have been unfair but now we could even charge 20 to 30 rupees and people would gladly pay,” claimed Saddozai. There is no planned price hike for the tickets.
The animals and their health is always the heart of any zoo. “We have been bringing in young doctors and zoologists to take care of the animals and to revamp the enclosures,” informed Saddozai. Currently, there are a total of six doctors and zoologists at the zoo and three of them are recent recruits.
The influx of new animals would help reinvigorate the zoo, as senior zoologist Abida Raees explained. “In a zoo you will have deaths of animals and you will also have births. We have some species that are reproducing at a great rate, but of course a zoo is not the place for breeding.”
The new animals expected to arrive include the golden tabby tiger, white Bengal tiger, Bengal tiger, white lion, African Lion, cheetah, black leopards, jaguars, white rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, greater kudus, eland, gemsbuck oryx, Asian black bears, zebras, ring-tailed lemurs, Debrazza’s monkeys, and black crested mangabey.
A flower show organised by the KMC is taking place at the Karachi Zoo till Sunday. “I’m not even a zoologist, I’m actually a media guy but I’ve been given the duty to turn the zoo around. I expect that I will fulfill my duty by the end of my term,” said a determined Saddozai.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.