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August 4, 2020

Human cruelty

Editorial

 
August 4, 2020

Humans are said to be the most civilized creatures on the planet. But this is something that is tested every single day. The latest event at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, where affairs have been in poor shape for decades, took a turn for the worse last week when the lioness and then the lion both died while being shifted to sanctuaries in a clumsy attempt to follow court orders. The IHC had ruled that given the condition of the animals at the zoo all must be shifted to places where they could live natural lives and enjoy better treatment. The manner in which zoo staff chose to go about this task defies imagination. The lioness and lion were first poked to bring them out of their cages and into the expensive Belgian transport holding devices brought in for the purpose. When this failed a fire was lit in the cage in the hope that this would drive the animals out or else suffocate them so they could be dragged out. Perhaps because of the high heat and perhaps because of the stress the strategy did not work. The lioness died before she could reach the sanctuary selected for the animals and the lion passed away a little later. Some ostriches and birds also died during this bungled transportation operation.

The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board entrusted with the task by the court has been asked to give an explanation and Minister for Climate Change Amin Aslam has ordered a full inquiry. The problem is that all the zoos in the country are essentially in a terrible condition, run with too few funds and too little expertise. Following the latest incident, the WWF has resigned from the IWMB. While there is possible merit in holding animals captive for research or breeding purposes in a few select cases, our zoos are certainly not capable of meeting these requirements. Tragedies take place at zoos around the country almost every day. Perhaps they should simply be shut down and the animals donated to other facilities around the world which are better equipped and willing to accept them.

There is one ray of light. After a long campaign run by pop stars including Cher, the elephant Kaavan who arrived as a baby at Marghazar Zoo from Srinagar at about six years old over thirty years ago is to be rehabilitated in Cambodia. Arrangements have been made for this and the giant creature who obviously suffers distress and, according to animal experts, mental ill health because of the treatment he has received will be traveling to his new home within days. We all wish Kaavan a happy future and hope one can also be created for the other animals being taken from the zoo to private sanctuaries in Pakistan.