KARACHI, June 24: The Sindh wildlife department (SWD) has initiated an inquiry into the procurement of a pair of pumas recently housed at the zoo, Dawn has learnt.
The young pumas bought at a cost of Rs2.75 million from a commercial animal importer will be shifted to the Safari Park once their enclosures are built there.
In a letter dated June 18, the conservator of the Sindh wildlife has asked the senior director of the culture, sports and recreation department of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to provide relevant documents of the pumas recently brought to the zoo.
This initiative on part of the wildlife department, according to sources, is indicative of the lack of coordination between the two departments and there appears to be an ambiguity over whether the Sindh Wildlife Ordinance 1974 currently in vogue in the province applies to the government-run facilities for keeping wild animals in the city.
It needs to be mentioned here that unlike other provinces where zoos, wildlife parks and sanctuaries operate under the wildlife department, government-run facilities for keeping wild animals in the city function under the KMC, which, sources say, takes the assistance of the wildlife department only when it requires a no-objection certificate (NOC) for animal import. The request is then forwarded to the National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW) in Islamabad.
This mechanism of coordination is very much reflective in the language of the letter sent to the KMC.
Referring to a news item printed in a section of the media, the letter says that “it has been published that Karachi Zoological Gardens has imported puma through commercial contractor Mr Jawaid Khan, animal importer. You are kindly requested to provide the import documents to this office at an earliest.”
The animals were not, in fact, imported, but rather acquired locally by the contractor who, according to his own claim, raised the animals for four years at a farm after they were brought in Pakistan from Canada.
The lack of coordination between the government-run facilities for keeping wild animals and the wildlife department has been a source of embarrassment for the former in the recent months.
The Safari Park had accepted a ‘donation’ of two chimpanzees, listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation’s Red Data List and an appendix one species of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) whereas the Karachi Zoological Gardens exchanged deer species with a pair of urial, a protected species in the province.
Both the administrator of the KMC and the then head of the Karachi zoo had admitted at that time that no investigation was conducted into the credential of the chimpanzees’ donor and the owner of a private farm, who exchanged the wild sheep with the deer species, and to know from where the animals were actually brought.
It is important to know that import permits for the appendix one species of the CITES can only be issued to a state-run zoo while one needs to take permission from the wildlife department in order to acquire species protected under the Sindh wildlife ordinance. The implementing authority in the province for the CITES to which Pakistan is a signatory is also the SWD.
“The Sindh wildlife ordinance covers the whole province and the zoo and the Safari Park, and being government-run facilities they need to be sensitive to wildlife rules and regulations. The department registers private mini zoos and game farms and the wildlife department staffs are active throughout the province,” Saeed Akhtar Baloch, conservator of the Sindh wildlife said.
It was important, he said, that government departments worked in coordination so that illegal activities could be checked.
“There is no mini zoo or farm registered with SWD with the name of Jawaid Khan. However, his status as an importer/exporter can only be determined by the NCCW,” he said.
There were, he pointed out, international concerns over wildlife trafficking and there was a dire need that relevant local government officials were made aware of the global sensitivities attached to the wildlife.
Upon contact, Mohammad Rehan Khan, the senior director of the culture, sports and recreation department of the KMC confirmed that he had received a letter from the wildlife department and had forwarded the same to the zoo director.
“The KMC had invited interested parties through an open tender and awarded the contract to the lowest bidder in a transparent manner. We have all documents to prove that the pumas are acquired through legal means,” he said, adding that the reply to the wildlife department would be sent in a few days.
Replying to a question whether the Sindh wildlife ordinance was applicable to the zoo and the Safari Park, he said that “this question should be asked to the Sindh wildlife department”.
He further said: “The KMC is a government institution. It is not acquiring animals for any business venture, but rather to provide entertainment to the public and educate them about wildlife.”