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Fowl play: Conditions at the Karachi Zoo

May 22, 2013

IT is a picture in contrast: in Islamabad on Friday, rescuers were alerted to an injured eagle that had been stranded in a tree for two days. It proved to be a steppe eagle, a migratory bird from Central Asia and a rare visitor to Pakistan in this season. It was taken to the vet at the Islamabad Zoo and will be set free after recovery. Meanwhile, as reported in our Sindh pages, at least 15 large birds under the care of the Karachi Zoo have died in a little more than a year. The most recent was a macaw found dead in its cage, apparently the victim of neglect and an environment detrimental to its health; several owls died within mere days of their arrival. Underscoring the irony, most of these birds were donated to the zoo to celebrate the facility’s first zoo day, held on Feb 28 last year.

The Karachi Zoo regularly loses other animals too, and for similar reasons. But notwithstanding media reports, conditions just don’t seem to improve. Zoo officials blame the situation on financial constraints, saying that if they were given even 10pc of the revenue the facility earns, improvements would be possible; an order that 25pc of the revenue should be spent on the facility was never im-plemented, they complain. Things are rapidly reaching a crisis point.

If the zoo administra-tion cannot improve the conditions in which the animals are kept, it might be time to start thinking about shutting down the facility for humane reasons. Certainly, as a first step the zoo must stop accepting or acquiring animals or birds that it cannot pro-perly house. This grim procession of death and neglect has to be brought to an end.