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August 9, 2020

Sacrifice of lions

Islamabad

 
August 9, 2020

In September last year, Murghazar Zoo in Islamabad was taken over from Islamabad Municipal Corporation (MCI) and handed over to Ministry of Climate Change.

Moments after this development, I interviewed State Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir who had said that zoo staff ate up the meat meant for lions and fed the lions with broilers. “We will turn the zoo around and you will see a change soon,” she said. Asked what her plan is for it as people were speculating that now zoo tickets and other charges will be enhanced, she said she could not share it with media too early.

Perhaps her perfect plan has gone viral a couple of days before Eidul Azha in the shape of a footage showing two men beating lions with their batons and making a fire inside their cage to scare them into moving to another one. But the lions failed to understand their message and got themselves injured and later dead.

Kohsar Police on Thursday registered a case against caretakers of the lions for killing the poor creatures. If the police succeeds in establishing their crime in the court of law, the culprits may pay a fine of Rs200 and may undergo six months of imprisonment. However, they will claim in the court that it was an accident and not intentional.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has announced formation of a committee to probe this incident. Malik is known as a game-changer and the brain behind the prime minister’s initiatives of protecting our environment. But before hoping for any results from this inquiry, one may keep in mind that his ministry officials are telling media that it was ill-advised to move animals in this extreme weather, alluding to a climate dimension of this cruelty.

Identity of the lions has not been exposed yet but if it was the same couple known as Raja and Rani, as has been written on their enclaves, I would say that the poor couple has been relieved. Two years ago in July 2017, four of their cubs died in the same zoo as they were given powder milk and bad care. Little is known about what happened to killers of these cubs. Perhaps they were not fined even Rs200 for their action.

The tragic news of the death of lioness and then the lion in a couple of days has just followed the good news that the only elephant in the zoo has been flown to safety on court orders.

Citizens of Islamabad have long been concerned on what is happening with animals in the zoo. The frequency of deaths of animals in this facility is alarming as dozens of them have died in a few years.

Taking stock of the situation, the court had ordered to shift animals to the places where they can live and live better.

Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, headed by Dr Anis Rehman, was ceased with the responsibility to look after these animals. Dr Rehman told me that the lion-handlers in the footage have been identified and action will be taken against them. He said post-mortem reports are coming but the fire in the cages and the death of lions are two separate incidents. He also confirmed that four cubs of this couple had died some time ago.

The inquiry committees have to look into the basic question that on whose behest the zoo was put under the Climate Change Minister. True that Islamabad mayor has been mired neck-deep in corruption charges but does it justify putting on a central ministry the responsibility to run a zoo? It may not be a far-fetched conclusion that instead of the corrupt, the animals have been punished in this system, which is needed to be changed.

— Hassan Shehzad