Cruel conditions

 
July 13, 2020

The colonial 1890 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act could come into play as the Islamabad High Court continues its hearings into the matter of the solitary incarceration and miserable conditions...

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The colonial 1890 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act could come into play as the Islamabad High Court continues its hearings into the matter of the solitary incarceration and miserable conditions of Kaavan, an elephant brought in from Sri Lanka many years ago, and other animals at the ill-kept Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. In his latest hearing into the matter on Thursday, Justice Athar Minallah warned that criminal proceedings could be brought against the minister for climate change, and also members of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board. The Marghazar Zoo has been in shambles for a very long time, even though it was intended to be converted into the most modern facility for the public to see wild animals in the country. Instead, they see only misery, with Kaavan shackled almost constantly as he sways back and forth in complete isolation. Other animals are barely better off, with allegations surfacing from time to time that due to funding problems and alleged corruption, they are denied sufficient food.

These are serious charges. As Justice Minallah pointed out, animals are living creatures and have rights just as humans do. It is true that in our country, the rights of humans are often ignored. But this does not mean we have any legitimate reason to subject animals to endless barbarity. We see this barbarity in many forms, with stray dogs killed in the most inhumane fashion and other animals treated with a complete disregard for their needs. The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has now set up a committee which is chaired by WWF experts to recommend how the matter should be handled. This is urgently required.

While Justice Minallah would like to see animals returned to their sanctuaries, the reality is that no sanctuaries exist for most species in our country and without the help of persons with a true understanding of elephant behavior, it will be difficult to rehabilitate Kaavan even if a separate sanctuary is set up for him. Perhaps, if it is impossible to send him back to an elephant reserve in Sri Lanka, professionals with knowledge from that country or others should be called in to determine what kind of care and environment he needs. This is also true of all other animals at the zoo. It is good to see a high court take up the matter so seriously. The message is clear. We hope it will be heeded.



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