THE Himalayan brown bear at the Islamabad Zoo is nursing an open wound on his foot, possibly maggot infested. The thousands of visitors for whom they keep captive our Pakistani wildlife now demand action to save his life.

The six-month-old bear cub that they probably bought from a wildlife smuggler is now eight-years-old, malnourished, suffering from mange and limping around his cemented enclosure with a gaping wound at least two weeks old. His sister, also wild-caught, has already died in the zoo’s care.

The general public is wondering why they have an injured animal on display. Since they haven’t yet noticed the bear’s agony, we recommend the following treatment plan by a trained and experienced wildlife veterinarian. First, remove the bear immediately from public display.

Confine him to a squeeze cage for the treatment duration. Sedate using an appropriate and safe dose of anaesthesia. If he has maggots, inject Negasunt or any available appropriate medicine into his wound. Make sure the entire wound is filled.

After five to 10 minutes, inject more and more of this medicine till the time the last maggots stop appearing. Begin an antibiotic course. Begin multivitamins.

Spray choona (lime powder) around the squeeze cage to keep flies away. Keep the bear confined for several days till the time the wound closes and he recovers completely. Once wound heals, begin treatment for mange.

In addition, administer medicines for endo/ecto parasites twice a year. Ivomec is recommended and can be sourced by the zoo’s veterinary medicine supplier.

We hope that the zoo caretakers are looking after his dietary needs, and keeping an eye on his protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins intake. We plead with the zoo authorities to only feed him milk for a while to aid in his recovery.

In an ideal world, the bear would not have been stolen from the wild in the name of conservation and put on display for the ‘education’ of Pakistani citizens. He would not be showing signs of zoochosis and ill-health that captivity induces.

But since animals held captive like this brown bear earn for the zoo a lot of money, the sacks of cash trickling up to the highest in the chain, will not rehabilitate him back into the wild or release to the national bear sanctuary. May we also recommend the following: with more than 60pc of the zoo’s 25 acres dedicated to zoo visitors, we recommend giving the bear access to an enclosure at least half an acre large, and letting him live the rest of his life in peace, dignity and good health in a sanctuary like environment.

Citizens concerned about wildlife in captivity

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019