15 captive animals without mates due to KMC apathy

Published June 25, 2015
This female at the Safari is the only llama species left at any government-run facility for captive animals.
This female at the Safari is the only llama species left at any government-run facility for captive animals.

KARACHI: It’s hard to imagine a life confined to a small inhospitable place and that, too, without a partner. But that’s how many animals are forced to live their life at the Karachi Zoological Gardens and the Safari Park.

Authorities at these facilities seem to have made little efforts to find mates for the unpaired animals, whose number, according to sources, has grown over the years. At present, these facilities are home to at least 15 unpaired animals — 10 at the zoo and five at the Safari Park.

The zoo list for unpaired species includes a female baboon (acquired through an animal exchange in 2013), a female hyena (donated in 2014), a male golden tabby tiger (brought to the zoo from the Safari Park two years ago following the death of its mate there), a female wallaby (purchased with a male and another female in 2007), two female emus (brought to the zoo), a female Bactrian camel (brought from Safari), a male zebra, two female cassowaries and a male langur (caught in Nagarparkar and later brought to the zoo in 2008).

‘To lose a mate is a big loss that affects the health and behaviour of the animal’

At the Safari Park, three female samba deer, a male water buck and a female llama have been alone for many years. Initially, animals of these species were brought to the Safari Park in the mid-1990s. Many unpaired animals, according to the sources, have died at the zoo and the Safari Park after spending years in isolation.

According to the sources, it’s only because of a lack of interest on part of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) that no serious effort has ever been made to find mates for these animals.

Caught from the wild in Nagarparkar, this male langur has been alone since 2008.
Caught from the wild in Nagarparkar, this male langur has been alone since 2008.

“Finding a mate for an unpaired animal is treated as a priority matter at zoos abroad. But, then, these facilities are headed by professionals who know their job,” said a zoo official, adding that appointment of non-technical directors (as is the present case at zoo and Safari) was a key factor contributing to the delay in this case.

The unqualified directors, he said, lacked knowledge about animal wellbeing and were unable to argue and convince their bosses that this was an important matter and required immediate attention.

“To lose a mate is a big loss that affects the health and behaviour of the animal. Hence, we try to keep unpaired animals either with other species or shift them closer to an enclosure that has animals with similar traits. So, even if they are not breeding, they feel at home,” additional director and senior vet at the Safari Park Dr Kazim Hussain explains how his facility is coping with the problem.

Last year, the source said, the KMC administrator rejected a request for mates on the ground that it would be a waste of money to purchase animals that were already present at the facility.

The only cassowary left at the zoo.
The only cassowary left at the zoo.

The sources also said that the KMC had sufficient budget for animal purchase but that often remained unutilised.

The KMC had purchased four new animals, two pairs of white lions and Bengal tigers each in five years, after paying the importer multiple times more than the actual market price of these animals. But no money was spent to bring mates for unpaired animals.

Animal purchase funds spent on foreign trip

The sources said that the KMC received Rs5 million, specifically to purchase animals, from the provincial government about nine months back.

Though no animal purchase agreement has so far been finalised, zoo and Safari officials have recently visited Singapore for five days from the same amount.

The lone golden tabby tiger at the zoo.
The lone golden tabby tiger at the zoo.

The KMC officials had earlier said that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) would be signed between the Karachi zoo and the Singapore zoo. However, later they said that the MoU was no longer on the agenda of the six KMC officials who would go abroad.

“Yes, the visit was organised from the same amount but it’s wrong to criticise the Singapore visit as it has provided many learning opportunities to us and helped explore future possibilities for animal exchanges with a zoo that has a good reputation worldwide,” said Raza Abbas Rizvi, the KMC director for culture, sports and recreation overseeing all facilities for the captive animals in the city.

He regretted that the issue of unpaired animals could not be taken up earlier.

“I have discussed this matter with the KMC administrator, and efforts would soon be made to find suitable mates for unpaired animals. The provincial government has assured us of more funds once Rs5m is spent,” he said, adding that the KMC was in negotiation with feed contractors to sort out the issue of pending dues.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2015

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