Karachi Zoo — where animals come to die

Updated July 30, 2014

Email

An Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author
An Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author

The Punjab government recently announced plans to import two female leopards into the Lahore Zoo. I wish those animals good luck because having seen one zoo in Pakistan, it would appear, these new arrivals will need it.

The Karachi Zoo is a well-known destination for people of all different backgrounds. Many have fond memories of the place as children. I went to the place two years ago but was disappointed by its decrepit state.

Recently, I went again. I hoped for better conditions but noted, to my utter dismay, that they had just gotten worse. The zoo has become something else now: a death trap for animals.

A chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author
A chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author

A cursory look of the recent press the zoo has had reveals everything. Over the last few years, the zoo has lost everything from Bengal tigers to jackals. Although some may say the deaths cannot be attributed completely to the poor supervision of zoo staff, one look at the conditions at Karachi Zoo changes most minds.

From my first step inside the place, I began noticing severe misconduct almost everywhere I looked.

A Burmese python (Python bivittatus) lays in its cage with paan splatters on the glass. —Photo by author
A Burmese python (Python bivittatus) lays in its cage with paan splatters on the glass. —Photo by author
Two miniature horses (Equus ferus) caked in mud. —Photo by author
Two miniature horses (Equus ferus) caked in mud. —Photo by author

To begin with, there was a general disregard for cleanliness both inside and outside the animal exhibits. Wrappers floated around everywhere, while plastic bottles floated in the stagnant waters of the crocodile pond, undoubtedly thrown in by unruly guests.

While the guests are of course responsible for the mess they create, it is also the job of the zoo staff to monitor their behaviour. In my entire time at the zoo, I saw no sign of zoo staff much of anywhere.

Trash litters the crocodile pond. — Photo by author
Trash litters the crocodile pond. — Photo by author

I walked up to a pair of Blue & Gold Macaws cowering at the top of their cage, and as their faded plumage caught my eye, so did a glimpse of hurried movement on the floor. Looking closer, I was horrified to see that a rat was sniffing around at the bottom of the cage.

Not only had the bird cage offered an access point to a rat, which is bad enough on its own, but no one was around to do anything about it. If in my brief visit I chanced upon a rat in one of the animals’ exhibits, who knows what else could be slipping past the lax zoo employees?

Yet, every time an animal of theirs dies, zoo officials claim it happens of ‘natural causes’.

Lion cub dies in zoo due to ‘staff negligence’

One of the most blatantly appalling parts of the zoo, however, was the pond for the ducks and geese. Despite these birds not being one of the ‘celebrity animals’, their welfare is no less important than say, that of the lions and tigers.

First off, you can smell the pond before you see it. The stench of rank unfiltered water and faeces as you approach it is overwhelming.

One look at the putrid green slush that zoo officials will try to pass off as water makes it pretty clear how good they are at 'ducking' their duties.

The hugely overpopulated waterfowl pond. —Photo by author
The hugely overpopulated waterfowl pond. —Photo by author

More disgusting is the treatment the poor animals are subjected to, and the lack of supervision from authorities.

I personally witnessed children at the zoo laughing and pelting Rhesus Macaques with bits of trash and rocks. Almost everyone will try to get the animals’ attention by yelling, whistling, cawing, or whatever other idiotic antics they think will get the animals to look their way.

Everywhere you turn, you are met with the desperate, hollow eyes of wild animals set against their depressing, barren habitats.

Looking deep into the eyes of the king of the jungle, the lion (Panthera leo). —Photo by author
Looking deep into the eyes of the king of the jungle, the lion (Panthera leo). —Photo by author
A plains zebra (Equus quagga) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author
A plains zebra (Equus quagga) at the Karachi Zoo. —Photo by author

The pride and glory of these majestic animals is reduced to pacing back and forth within a few square feet endlessly, waiting to die.

Intelligence that has no outlet becomes frustration.

Despite constant criticism, KMC (Karachi Metropolitan Corporation), which runs the zoo, continues to purchase animals only to have them die. The zoo has built up a terrible reputation for itself. A multitude of different controversies has surfaced in recent times.

In one case that initially looked positive for the zoo, a lioness gave birth to four cubs. Within four days, the bodies of three of the cubs were found dead, with the fourth one alleged to have been eaten by his mother.

In another case, jackals gave birth to three pups. Just a day later, all three were again reported as having been eaten by their mother.

Another death in zoo — this time it’s a crocodile

What's imperative to understand here is that like so many of Pakistan’s other problems, this one is more deeply rooted than is immediately apparent; it is even further past a rudimentary respect for animals. The problem lies in people’s lack of respect for their environment.

In general, Pakistanis do not have a sense of civic responsibility, and this makes them feel no obligation to the upkeep of pleasantness in their surroundings.

In fact, they're much more interested in acquiring animal paraphernalia for black magic purposes than showing basic etiquette toward them.

At the very least, instead of regularly purchasing new excessively expensive animals, the zoo can put that money into the welfare of the animals currently there. Being as it is that the zoo is place for public education, they should set an example for others to learn from. The management at the Karachi Zoo has proven itself to be unfit to care for the zoo and it is time they made a decision.

A rare golden tabby tiger (Panthera tigris) paces. —Photo by author
A rare golden tabby tiger (Panthera tigris) paces. —Photo by author

There are only three logical options for KMC to choose: they can completely revamp the entire place, privatise the zoo, or close down and send their animals elsewhere.

Their current treatment of animals cannot be allowed to continue.