KARACHI, March 17: A number of camels, horses and deer were secretly driven out of the Safari Park recently and handed over to the Lahore-based ‘party’ which had helped the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation acquire a pair of golden tabby tigers, sources told Dawn on Sunday.
They said that mandatory permission from the Sindh wildlife department was not obtained for transferring those animals to the party ‘in exchange’.
The animals being ‘exchanged’ — camels, horses, horses and deer, including the spotted species — are said to be in surplus at the Safari Park; camels, horses and deer.
When contacted, Safari Park administrator Salman Shamsi refused to give any information about the ‘exchange deal’.
It is the second time in recent weeks that the Safari Park has violated the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1972. Earlier, the KMC had brought the tigers to Karachi by road without mandatory permission from the wildlife department.
The wildlife ordinance states: “No person shall import or attempt to import to Sindh any wild animal of an endemic or exotic species, or any trophy or meat of a kind specified in sub-section (1) of section 10, except under an import permit granted under this ordinance, and if such an import be from outside Pakistan except through a customs post of entry and subject to any law relating to control on imports for the time being in force.”
Elaborating on the regulations, wildlife conservator Hussain Bakhsh Bhagat said that wild animals could not be transported out or brought into the province without permission of the wildlife department.
“The law specifically mentions only those animals which were being traded in those days (1972),” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cover exotic species, such as golden tabby tigers, as it grants protected status to leopards and cheetahs.”
The spotted deer, he said, were protected under wildlife rules, while verification was required from the department for even transferring camel and horses to other provinces.
“Though camels and horses come under the livestock department, one has to get verification from the wildlife department that these animals are not mentioned in their schedules,” said Mr Bhagat. “The KMC has violated the rules and a letter reminding of the offence will be sent to them next week.”
Caged tigers Meanwhile, questions have been raised over the KMC’s move of bringing exotic tabby tigers in a controversial ‘exchange’ deal rather than shifting the Bengal tigers, currently housed in the Karachi zoo to the Safari Park.
The Bengal tigers, along with a pair of white lions, had been purchased last year and the officials had stated at that time that these animals would be shifted to the Safari Park once an enclosure was made there to keep them.
The four big cats had been brought to Karachi without the mandatory import licence and, even after seven months, the KMC has not been able to acquire the NOC.
As the Safari authorities continue to keep details of the ‘deal’ secret, one finds it hard to understand the logic behind exchanging ‘surplus animals at Safari Park’, especially deer, as the Karachi zoo, the city’s biggest facility for keeping wild animals in captivity, witnessed a major outbreak of a mysterious disease which took the lives of more than 20 animals, mostly deer, in January.
“If there are surplus in the Safari Park then why can’t they be shifted to the zoo?” asked a senior wildlife expert.
A visit to the Safari Park showed the golden tabby tigers had been provided with a small open space with little shade while the pond was almost empty. The tigers are not actually from a separate species but have an extremely rare colour variation caused by a recessive gene currently found only in captive tigers.
When KMC officials, including the Safari Park director and additional director, were questioned over caging of animals in the park, which is supposed to provide large open spaces to wild animals, they declined to reply.
Commenting on the situation, World Wide Fund for Nature director in Lahore, Uzma Khan, said facilities for captive animals in Karachi needed to have a management committee comprising experts, as they existed at the Lahore zoo, to manage their affairs with transparency.
“It shouldn’t be a one-man show. An expert committee should look after, manage and decide affairs of captive animals,” she said. “We also need to have standards on keeping animals as is a practice in other countries. Moreover, the animal exchange document is a public document and should be made public.”