Tuesday September 26, 2023

A case for animals

By Editorial Board
June 01, 2023

A petition moved before the Supreme Court seeking the import of two African elephants to be housed at a zoological garden in Peshawar has been rejected by the court on the grounds that the zoo lacks adequate facilities to house and care for the animals. During the hearing, the deputy attorney general had mentioned that the CITES (Conve­ntion on International Trade in Endan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Management Authority had also during a 2020 meeting with the Ministry of Climate Change noted that the zoo did not meet the required criteria. The petitioner, however, claimed that management teams from the Zimbabwe Wildlife Department had approved the zoo.

But the whole matter goes beyond this controversy. We all remember that the elephant Kaavan was removed from Islamabad Zoo and sent to Cambodia, where he is said to have regained his mental fitness in a conducive rehabilitation setting, while another elephant Noor Jehan died at Karachi Zoo just this year – at least in part due to poor veterinary care and possible ill- treatment by her keepers. It is quite obvious from the stories of other animals and other wildlife deaths we have heard of at zoos in Pakistan that Pakistan does not have facilities that are suitable for the welfare and safekeeping of animals entrusted to their care. In today’s age, a zoo should exist only when it is required to try and breed endangered species, as has happened in the case of pandas and a few other species, or as purely educational facilities housing animals which are suitable for being kept in a small space where they can live natural lives. The Jersey zoo, founded by well-known wildlife expert and writer Gerald Durrell is one example of this kind of smaller zoo where animals which actually live in large spaces and wander across large tracts of land.

Given that Pakistani zoos, as well as the visitors who go to watch the animals on display, have little respect for the rights and the dignity of species other than humans, it is wise not to bring more animals into the country. This is especially true of the endangered African elephant which is widely hunted down for its ivory. Pakistani zoos need to adapt and change if they are to house any animals at all. Since this does not seem likely in the very short term, it may be wise to close down all geological gardens and so-called safari parks until we are in a position where these facilities can truly act as centers for the care of wild animals and treat them as they would if they were in their natural habitats. Right at this time, it does not seem likely that this can happen.