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Tuesday May 28, 2024

Activists demand captive bear's release from Karachi zoo

Led by animal welfare organisation Paws, protest aimed at raising awareness about Rano's plight in captivity

By Web Desk
October 07, 2023
Captive Himalayan brown bear Rano seen pacing restlessly in her cage at Karachi zoo in this still taken from a video. — Paws Pakistan
Captive Himalayan brown bear "Rano" seen pacing restlessly in her cage at Karachi zoo in this still taken from a video. — Paws Pakistan

In a peaceful "silent art protest" led by Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (Paws) at Karachi zoo, animal lovers demanded the freeing of "Rano", a Himalayan brown bear kept in captivity at the facility.

The organisation urged the artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians, birdwatchers, environmentalists, and wildlife and climate activists to gather at Gandhi Garden — better known as Karachi zoo — to mark World Animal Day with a protest against the abuse of the innocent animal.

As per Paws, the protest is aimed at raising awareness about Rano's plight in captivity and the urgent need to send her to a bear sanctuary in Balkasar.

In an extension to the peaceful demonstration, animal lovers of all age groups gathered outside the bear's barren cage at Karachi zoo.

Holding up banners and creating art, they demanded her immediate release to a bear sanctuary.

One of the participants of Saturday's peaceful protest said that they couldn't even see the bear to make her sketches.

"We are trying to draw because the bear is not present here [in the cage], so we are using out imagination and pictures available on internet to sketch her," the youngster said.

He said that they wanted to show the world through their art that the bear is a victim of oppression but no one is doing anything for her.

"People just see her as a display item and enjoy like it is a circus but she has nothing to eat or drink so she cannot survive here which is not her natural habitat," he added.

Paws co-founder Mahera Omar said that Rano does not belong in Karachi zoo, she is a Himalayan brown bear, a wildlife species native to Pakistan.

"Most likely snatched from the wild as a cub, she has spent her entire life in cruel captivity. She cannot bear it any longer. The only way to right all the wrongs done to her is to let her spend the rest of her life in a sanctuary," the activist said.

She said that the national wildlife rehabilitation centre run by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) would be an ideal cool home for Rano. The other option is the bear sanctuary in Balkasar, Punjab, which is being run under the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC).

Sharing in detail about the harsh effects of captivity on wild animals, Omar said that confinement leads to zoochosis which develops repetitive stereotypic behaviours such as head bobbing, swaying, rocking, weaving, pacing, licking bars, grooming, and self-mutilation in them.

"Rano too suffers from zoochosis. Unable to fulfil any of her species-specific needs that she otherwise would have in the wild, she has been seen pacing relentlessly up and down the same side of her cage for years," the activist said.

Omar further stated that the captive bear is frustrated in this cage, which is completely inadequate to be her habitat.

She shared that the enclosure was built in 2020 but its designer had "absolutely no idea about the needs of a wild bear".

"As it is a bear from a cold climate, [it] has no business being held hostage in Karachi. It does not reflect well on the country to treat our wildlife in this manner. Instead of protecting natural habitats, the zoo has sentenced a beautiful wild animal to a life of utter misery," she added.

Rano is not the only animal to be a victim of cruelty and captivity as many other animals kept at Karachi zoo witness the same fate. There have been umpteen cases where zoo animals suffer starvation, diseases, and eventual death.

The last animal on record to die following a long-standing ailment was female elephant, Noor Jehan.

Later, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab also joined the protest and assured the participants that Rano will be sent to a sanctuary according to its natural habitat.