Mar 11, 2009

Zoos of death

IN a society where the battle for human rights rages on, it is hardly surprisingly that animals are hunted and caged for a lark. According to a report in this paper, the CDGK has grand plans of bringing in numerous animals from different corners of the globe to populate the Karachi Zoo and Safari Park. Of these, a pair of Tanzanian elephants alone is worth a staggering Rs16m and another Rs8m has been sanctioned for a few big cats. It is indeed alarming that funds for animal import not only escalate but are also readily available despite the dismal, horrifying state of our zoos and wildlife reserves. Surprisingly, Pakistan’s status as a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has done precious little to either compel authorities to funnel these astonishing amounts to enhance existing facilities or to curb the upsurge in the country’s animal death toll.

We need to counter a collective mindset of apathy that often confuses compassion with misinterpreted religious edicts — scenes of pelting stray dogs with stones is a sad example, as if Islam permits or encourages such cruelty. Unlike the western world where zoos are breeding grounds and educational facilities, in Pakistan they are torture cells in the guise of cages. There is a dire need for an aggressive animal rights movement, similar to India’s, that forces relevant authorities to establish security and monitoring apparatuses in animal shelters to rein in wilder visitors that tease and taunt innocent animals. Also, animals have to be kept at bay from each other to prevent gruesome and wholly preventable incidents — last year, an ailing tiger feasted on close to 60 geese, and stray dogs entered a peacock’s cage. Importing more animals at great cost and keeping them in miserable conditions serves no purpose. These funds must be spent on the upkeep and training of zoo keepers, the provision of hygienic living conditions and feed for the animals and establishing veterinary care units to detect and control epidemics. The state of our animals is the ultimate yardstick of our own ‘civilisation’. Hence, the absence of reserves is preferable to ‘organised’ abattoirs.

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