Noor Jehan, an elephant in Karachi Zoo, is critically ill after the 17-year-old fell in a pond in a small enclosure. She has since been lying visibly weak with limited motion on a mound of sand, propped up against the only tree inside the enclosure. Noor Jehan’s condition is a reminder that we have imprisoned animals in cages for the entertainment of the people. We humans are the reason that the animals suffer and bear so much torture and pain.
Wild animals are unlikely to survive or live happily in an artificial environment like the ones we provide them at the zoos. Moving them from their natural habitat and from their community puts them under great stress. It is no secret that animals in Pakistani zoos are kept in poor conditions.
The wildlife parks and zoos of Pakistan are characterised by a weak governance system. The animals lying in the zoos and wildlife parks of Pakistan are ignored with regard to their physical and mental well-being. They are not properly provided with adequate nutritional food and are seldom treated effectively for their physical ailments. There are about 10 public zoos, 25 private zoos and 28 wildlife parks in Pakistan. Neither of these are authorised by any recognised association of zoos and aquariums. The animals kept in these zoos are often neglected. Not only is their food and nutrition ignored but several other environmental issues thwart their well-being. Several zoos lack veterinary professionals, owing to which the animals do not get ample medical help whenever required. Some animals die due to lack of adequate required treatment adding to the plight of the zoos of Pakistan.
This brutality towards animals has been there because of continuous negligence being directed towards them. This isn’t the first time we are witnessing the suffering of animals at zoos and this definitely doesn’t seem to be the last time either. In 2020, American singer Cher arrived in Pakistan to send off Kaavan, an elephant in Islamabad Zoo she had spent years trying to free, before his move to a Cambodian sanctuary. Animal rights advocates had campaigned for the 36-year-old Asian elephant to be rescued from grim conditions.
Minister for Climate Change, Sherry Rehman, has said that there is a no-zoo Islamabad model of rescue and rehab centre and transition sanctuary, in the federal capital. The Islamabad zoo where the bears and the elephant were kept have now been closed. Pakistan should stand firmly against any kind of animal cruelty and take timely action to stop it.
We all need to stand up for the animals and treat them right. It took one Noor Jehan to make us realise that zoo animals suffer from continued neglect and will continue to die and go through pain if our policies don’t change. So if, we cannot take care of our animals, we should close the zoos and free the animals. We Pakistanis don’t deserve them.
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