Soozi, the female bear, lies in her cage at Marghazar Zoo. — White Star
Soozi, the female bear, lies in her cage at Marghazar Zoo. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: After the death of over 20 animals during the last a few years, a female brown bear at the Marghazar Zoo is now struggling for her life.

The Himalayan bear is being treated for injuries she mysteriously sustained recently in a small cage with restricted movement.

The injured animal is being kept in a small cage, almost 3x7 feet, inside an enclosure. The zoo staff said the bear got her face and the right leg injured during mating.

Soozi is being kept in a small cage after she mysteriously sustained injuries to her face and leg

The enclosure where Soozi and her partner, Balu, are kept is not suitable for such animals.

According to officials, three bear cubs were arranged for the zoo in 2007 out of which one died last year. The zoo management claimed that the cub was suffering from ‘brain tumour.’

“Why big animals like bears are kept in such a small enclosure. A new facility should immediately be made for these animals,” said Rashid Khan, a visitor, who had come to the zoo with his family from Gujar Khan.

The lion’s enclosure is also too small while that of Kavaan, the lone elephant, needs upgradation.

Sources said all the three enclosures for beers, lions and Kavaan the elephant did not meet the standard operating procedure (SOP).

During the last few years, 20 animals died in the zoo. Except for the nilgais, the zoo management claimed that the animals died of natural causes. However, four out of the eight nilgais, according to a postmortem report, had died of poison.

According to the report, the four nilgais had died of ‘severe endotoxic shock’. However, so far no action has been taken against the negligent officials.

“An inquiry into the death of nilgais is underway,” said Zoo Director Rana Tahir.

The official said Soozi’s leg was injured earlier this month, claiming the wounds were now almost healed up.

“We are providing Soozi the best facilities and over 90pc of her wounds have healed. We are optimistic that in a couple of weeks she will be back to her normal self and visible to the visitors,” the director said.

When asked why the injured animal was kept in a small cage, the director claimed: “It is necessary for her proper treatment. We have restricted the movement of Soozi on the recommendation of our veterinary doctor to ensure early healing of the injuries.”

He claimed that four stitches were administered on the leg and two on her face.

Dr Bilal Khilji, the only veterinary doctor in the zoo, told Dawn that all animals were being given treatment as per the SOP.

He said during mating wild animals often injured each other, adding that Soozi’s injuries had almost healed up.

During a visit to the zoo, one can find almost all enclosures insufficient for animals. Even Kavaan is kept in a shabby three-walled structure.

Sources said the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) could not take steps to upgrade the zoo and the government was now mulling transferring the administration of the facility to the Ministry of Climate Change.

A few months ago, Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul had told a committee that her office had requested the government to hand over the zoo’s administation to the ministry.

She said the zoo was in poor condition and there was no trained staff to take care of the animals. But MCI officials said they had experience of decades to take care of the zoo and the climate change ministry had no such expertise.

In an apparent response to the minister’s remarks, the MCI during its session passed a resolution demanding that the administrative control of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and Zoo-Cum Botanical Garden, which are currently attached to the climate change ministry, should be placed under the MCI.

“The issue of zoo is linked with funding. We collect Rs23 million annually from the sale of entry tickets while our annual expenditure is Rs100 million. The government should provide funds to us to get the desired results,” said Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz.

He said by utilising available funds, maximum facilities were being provided in the zoo.

He said that last year the government had allocated Rs100 million for the upgradation of the zoo but later the project was dropped.

“This year too we received no fund from the federal government,” he said, adding that the expansion of the bear enclosure was also part of the project.

He claimed that some NGOs had been propagating against the zoo for vested interest.

The PML-N government in the 2018-19 budget had reflected a project worth Rs200 million for strengthening and upgrading the zoo and allocated Rs100 million for it.

But the PTI government dropped the project after coming into power. In the fiscal year 2019-20, no funds have been allocated for the zoo.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2019