Kind treatment towards animals is a concept seemingly lost on zoo caretakers. The recent death of Bubli, a chimpanzee at Safari Park in Karachi, adds to the lengthy record of zoo animals lost allegedly due to neglect by zookeepers. According to sources, Bubli was living in a small cage, separated from her male partner, for 17 days. The zookeepers probably had little idea of the vast psychological and health factors associated with keeping social animals in isolation, which is supported by extensive research. However, due to a lack of government concern and laws regarding animal treatment — not even leveraging so much as a small fine to animal abusers — zookeepers may not even care.
The cases of animal neglect in 2013 are many. In June, an Uryal fawn was injured by zookeepers during transfer to another cage. The only consequence was that the innocent fawn died from the broken leg injury without any ramifications for the zookeepers. In another incident, a Nilgai died after falling into a pond in its new enclosure due to failure on the caretakers’ part to ensure the pond was empty. These stories and many similar ones are indicative of zookeepers’ ignorance.
Pakistan needs to implement laws on mistreatment of animals and fine zoos for neglect. Meticulous investigations must be carried out when animals die — helpless beings at the mercy of humans. Imposing fines for neglect on zoos will encourage zoos across the nation to keep a check on their employees. Ultimately, no one without a genuine interest in the emotional and physical wellbeing of all creatures, big and small, should be allowed to be part of a team responsible for taking care of animals. Once, as a country, we start treating animals more kindly, we will be able to treat one another more kindly; as Immanuel Kant said, “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2014.