PESHAWAR: The provincial wildlife department has finally found a suitable site for establishing a zoo in Peshawar.
“Twenty-nine acres of land has been transferred to the department free of cost and the experts have started work on the project,” said Dr Mohsin Farooq, an official of the provincial wildlife department who was also member of the committee which searched for suitable sites for setting up a zoo.
He said that the Range Management Garden, an area near Pakistan Forest Institute, which was selected for setting up the zoo, was not only accessible and suitable but would also help to make a Zoo bigger than Lahore Zoo, which was established over 24 acres.
The idea of setting up a zoo in Peshawar was floated during the previous government. Peshawar Development Authority had offered to provide a land in Regi Lalma for Rs240 million, which was beyond the allocated funds for the zoo. Another site Dheri Zardad, along Nowshera-Charsadda Motorway, was also not suitable as it was not easily accessible. So the idea of establishing the zoo was dropped.
“A team was sent to Lahore Zoo to see what were the needs of such a project to make more or less zoo of the same kind,” said Dr Mohsin. He added that government found a suitable site at Range Management Garden and work was also initiated on the project.
“We would make layout of the zoo, but due to non-availability of an engineer to help in setting up infrastructure at the department, an expert has been called from Punjab province. An engineer, who has experience of setting up zoo in Lahore and also working on such a project in Multan, has been brought in. He found the current site suitable for setting up a zoo,” said the official.
An amount of Rs100 million has been allocated in the current Annual Development Programme for setting up zoo in Peshawar. Dr Mohsin said that it was neither possible nor feasible to bring in expensive and carnivorous wild life with the allocated money. He said that wildlife department planned to establish the zoo in phases. Lahore Zoo reached the current position in some 147 years, he added.
“We would develop this zoo in three phases. In first phase we will have local grass eating animals. In this first two years the staff would also get trained,” said the official. In the second phase, few of the expensive animals like giraffe would be brought in to the zoo. “In the last phase when staff is trained to handle more carnivorous and expensive wildlife, we would bring in those animals,” he said.
The wildlife department official sounded enthusiastic about the project, however, some people concerned about animals rights and care also expressed their reservations about the project.
Maureen P. Lines, a resident of Peshawar who works for environment conservation in Kalash valley, expressed her concern as animal cruelty was quite common in many parts of the country. She talked of how she had seen people using animals like dogs for fighting to amuse themselves.
“How can a zoo exist with a humane attitude to its animals? How many times have we read of deaths of exotic in Karachi and Lahore zoos? Only the other day, it was reported that another chimp died due to negligence in Lahore Zoo,” said Ms Lines.
She said that Peshawar was extremely hot in summer. “What arrangements would be made for caged animals to be kept cool? Given the unending loadshedding, would energy crisis be a thing of the past by the time the zoo is operating,” she questioned. Ms Lines appealed to the provincial government to reconsider the plan.
However, there are parents, who have been demanding setting up a zoo in Peshawar for quite some time. Children of a private school had handed over a letter to the then chief minister Ameer Haider Hoti requesting him to set up a zoo in Peshawar.
The official, however, said that since the project would be developed in phases and experts from Lahore were engaged to make proper enclosures at the bigger piece of land, the zoo would have all the basic facilities for the proper care of the animals.
“We would make sure all the necessary facilities are there. We know if we don’t do it, the animals would run away or die,” said Dr Mohsin.
Published in Dawn, November 13th , 2014