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Friday January 21, 2022

The cruelty of cages

December 01, 2021

There is no other answer. Zoos in countries like Pakistan should be shut down and sealed for life, given the torture and suffering they inflict on the animals housed there. There have been multiple reports of such cruelty in the past. The latest emerges from the Karachi zoo, where an elderly white lion brought to the zoo from Africa in 2012 died of pulmonary tuberculosis last week. Though the lion was aged, he should still have been able to survive with good care and an environment conducive to his health. Such an environment is not provided to the vast majority of animals housed in Pakistan's zoos, if to any at all. A few years ago, we had the case of Kaavan, the elephant from Sri Lanka, who suffered psychosis and severe loneliness notably after his companion, Saheli, an elephant from Sri Lanka died in 2012. After a court battle and efforts by groups of animal lovers, led by the American music icon Cher, Kaavan was finally returned to a sanctuary in Cambodia, where we hope he is receiving better care and a happier life.

But in Pakistan, there are still too many animals locked up behind bars and kept in the most miserable conditions. They are poked and prodded by zookeepers, attempting to collect tips from visitors in an effort to get them to perform and also teased by visitors to the zoo, who have no concern for the welfare of animals, or any empathy for the situation they are literally caught in. These animals deserve to be in their natural habitat and not in small cages where they sometimes barely have room to pace. Perhaps the very best zoos in the world, intended as breeding centres for endangered species, or as places where people can be taught about the lives of animals in their natural habitats and kept in excellent conditions, can be preserved at least to a limited degree for species which are not territorial and do not need wide expanses of space in order to flourish. However, in Pakistan, it is quite obvious we lack the expertise or the will to run zoos with any kind of dedication or any kind of commitment.

In this situation, we should be working towards closing down zoos, and rehousing the animals which are still alive and still kept there. Pakistan has a tradition of treating animals badly. This ranges from stray dogs on the streets to rare animals kept behind bars, or at private zoos maintained by the rich and famous in our country. Zoos essentially in our country are places where cruelty prevails and where people who visit are taught nothing but further cruelty towards animals who have been fed plastic bags, which led to their death, given razor blades leading to injury and treated in other inhumane fashion.

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