State of zoos
THE celebration of ‘zoo day’ at the Karachi zoo on Sunday was a welcome change, as most often the news coming out of the facility is not good. A number of recreational and educational activities were organised on the day; children seemed to particularly enjoy the festivities, observing exotic animals up close. Such events are an important source of recreation for a populace starved of leisure activities. However, it is also true that the overall condition of zoos in Pakistan is far from satisfactory. In a society where human lives are not worth much, animal welfare falls much lower on the priority list. For example, at the Karachi zoo, the number of qualified veterinarians and trained handlers is sadly inadequate. Not enough attention is paid to ensure that animals will survive in Karachi’s climatic conditions while the absence of proper caged areas is another matter of concern; concrete enclosures are not suitable substitutes for an animal’s natural habitat. Lahore zoo is relatively better run compared to its Karachi counterpart, yet it also requires investment and expansion in terms of animal welfare. Apart from officially managed facilities, private zoos are a major issue, especially in Karachi. There is no accurate estimate of how many such facilities exist, while they are completely unregulated.
The whole approach towards zoos needs to be re-evaluated. Instead of being mere places for public entertainment, they should be centres of conservation, where people are educated about wildlife and nature. For this our zoos need to be run by professionals trained in conservation and concerned about animal welfare. If our attitude does not change and we cannot ensure the safety and security of animals in Pakistan’s zoos, perhaps it would be a better idea to leave the beasts in their natural habitats instead of caging them and then neglecting them.