Fur cryin’ out loud: As temperatures run wild, zoo residents hit the ice bucket

The elephants have not been provided any pond while small ones given to others.

Sameer Mandhro May 05, 2014
An elephant enjoys herself as zoo staff hose her down with water at the Karachi Zoological Gardens. The rise in temperature has affected the zoo animals as there are no ponds for them to cool off in. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: The people of Karachi are not the only ones suffering from the heat wave. The rise in temperature has also affected the animals at the Karachi Zoological Gardens as the 'ponds' where they can escape the heat are small and uncomfortable and in one case, nonexistent.

Most of the bigger animals, including a two-hump camel Bactrian, a Bengal Tiger, a white lion, a (Panthera) Leo lion and a pony, roam their cages uneasily as the change in weather takes its toll.

The administration is trying to provide them with an environment that may decrease their unrest but save for a few small blocks of ice placed in different cages; no other precautionary measures are being taken. The animals are being left at nature's mercy and nature seems to be in an unforgiving mood.

The official stance

"We don't have sensitive animals," said the zoo director, Muhammad Faheem Khan. "The animals are being given glucose and we are also placing ice in the cages of different animals."

Khan believed that the ponds constructed for the animals are in accordance with the size and weight of the animals. But in reality, the ponds inside the cages are either empty or are too small for the animals that they are intended for.

"The hot weather affected all animals and we arrange for it according to the recommendations of our veterinary and zoological experts," Khan added.   The Karachi zoo, spread over 33 acres, has more than 900 birds, mammals, reptiles and fishes, according to the zoo director. However, for such a large number of animals, the zoo has only two veterinary doctors and a zoologist. The Express Tribune learnt that these animal experts only visit the cages when an animal is sick.

It was also learnt that the zoo, one of the most popular sites in the city for children, lacks technical and non-technical staff; at least 20 in total, including veterinary doctors, zoo keepers and sanitary workers. "Yes, this is an issue but we are managing all things properly," the director maintained.

However, his views were not shared by all. "The animals are not being looked after properly," said a zoo official who requested anonymity. "They need a lot of care in this weather. Either endangered animals are being kept in cages that are too small for them or are being left in bigger ones without providing them the facilities that they require. The city's zoo lacks trained staff and a glaring lack of interest shown by top officials makes the situation worse."

No elephant ponds

While other animals have been provided ponds 'according to the sizes', the pair of elephants at the zoo have not been as lucky. To escape the heat, they are being kept under shelter during the day and are shifted to open cages when night falls.

The size of these shelters and cages are so narrow that the pair is unable to move freely. One of the employees told The Express Tribune that the pair was shifted from Safari Park in 2010 but the pond that was being built for them has not been completed in the four years that they have been here. The animals will have to tolerate the hot weather this year too.

"The pond for elephants will be completed within a month," Khan claimed, but knew that the issue of finance was the biggest hurdle.

"They are uncomfortable. The weather has made them irritated," one of the employee deployed outside the shelter said but added that the pair are given three showers a day.

Some improvement

A modern animal hospital is being built at the zoo," said Karachi Metropolitan Corporation administrator Rauf Akhtar Farooqui. He said that a modern laboratory will also be established in the hospital adding that due to the dearth of animal hospitals in the city, the zoo officials had to send medical tests to Islamabad or Lahore in the past. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 6th, 2014.


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