These days the zoo is buzzing with energy as the authorities prepare to greet two very expensive guests – imported white lions from South Africa at a cost of Rs10 million.
According to zoo officials, the lions will be kept in a glass enclosure, the first of its kind in the country, to make it easier for visitors to spot the jungle royals. “The enclosure will be made from acrylic glass, similar to the material used for making windows for commercial aeroplanes. It should hopefully be completed by Sunday,” said the zoo’s director, Dr Karim Hussain, while talking to The Express Tribune on Thursday. “The lions will be here next week. This is the first time we’ll have white lions in the country. No one has ever brought them here.”
The zoo authorities are expecting a large crowd to visit once the white lions make their first public appearance. An excited Hussain explained that the idea behind the glass enclosure was to give the children more access to the animals. He said that this way the children would be able to measure their palms against the lion’s paws. He added that having an acrylic glass cage for animals will be the first for Pakistan.
The white lion is a rare animal found only in the Timbavati region of South Africa. According to the Global White Lion Protection Trust they are growing extinct.
In recent weeks, the zoo has been in news for all the wrong reasons. Many animals have died, raising doubts about the capabilities of the handlers. But the former zoo director, Bashir Sadozai, insists that there is nothing wrong with the management. “White lions do not need special caretakers,” he said. “The staff is well trained to handle the different kinds of lions. We have done all the assessments in this case.”
The lions are being imported through a commercial trader but interestingly the authorities do not know who is exporting the animals. Dr Hussain could not confirm if the animals were reared in private confinement or official safari. “I can assure you that Sindh Public Procurement rules have been followed in letter and spirit,” he said. “According to the importer, the animals are from a captive breeding facility. The import documents of the animals will tell us everything.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.