MCI files petition in SC against high court order of handing over zoo to ministry

Updated August 29, 2019

Email

Clockwise from top: A hog deer and chingara died recently while seven nilgais died early in the year; a bear was inflicted with serious injuries a few months ago and Kavaan the elephant has been living in loneliness since the death of its partner Saheli. — White Star
Clockwise from top: A hog deer and chingara died recently while seven nilgais died early in the year; a bear was inflicted with serious injuries a few months ago and Kavaan the elephant has been living in loneliness since the death of its partner Saheli. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) has appealed against an Islamabad High Court (IHC) order of handing over Marghazar Zoo to the Ministry of Climate Change in the Supreme Court, a Senate committee was told on Wednesday.

The IHC has ordered the ministry to take over control of the zoo from the MCI until today (Thursday), when the case will next be heard.

The Senate Standing Committee on Interior, which met to discuss mismanagement, irregularities and the death of animals and birds at the Islamabad zoo, was briefed by Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz.

He said that following court orders, the Ministry of Climate Change is responsible for looking after zoo affairs. He said the MCI has filed a petition in the SC against the IHC’s orders.

When the committee asked the mayor about the many deaths of animals and birds at the zoo, Mr Aziz said the condition was not as bad as it appeared to be in the press.

Senate committee chair commits to helping zoo bring in three more elephants to combat Kavaan’s loneliness

He said news regarding the death and mistreatment of animals was “propaganda” by NGOs who wanted to take control of the zoo.

He claimed these organisations were misleading the courts and received favourable decisions. Committee chair Senator Rehman Malik decided to expunge Mr Aziz’ remarks against the courts.

Mr Aziz criticised NGOs in the case of the lone elephant, Kavaan, claiming that some organisations have been trying to have the elephant moved from the zoo.

He said the elephant is fit, and being a large animal cannot be moved. He added that the only problem with Kavaan was his loneliness.

To this, Senator Malik said if the elephant is fit there is no need to have him moved, and instead three more elephants should be brought to the zoo to combat his loneliness.

“I will personally request the Sri Lankan ambassador for three elephants,” he said, adding that the committee will visit the zoo soon to observe its condition.

A working paper of the committee shared with senators said in light of the IHC order dates July 5, 2019, the zoo management is under the control of the Ministry of Climate Change and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, and the MCI has no involvement.

It said that under the 2015 Local Government Act, the management of the zoo is the prerogative of the MCI.

“An appeal against the impugned order dated 5-7-2019 of Honorable Islamabad High Court has been filed in Supreme Court,” it stated. No one from the Ministry of Climate Change was present at the meeting to offer their perspective.

Marghazar Zoo, which is spread over 25 acres at the foot of the Margalla Hills, has been neglected by local authorities for years. It used to be under the control of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and was devolved to the MCI after the local government was formed in 2016.

While the CDA did not take any measures to upgrade the facility, the MCI appears to have limited itself to making hollow claims regarding improvement. The zoo lacks adequate shelter for the animals it houses, and even large animals like Kavaan are forced to live in small, shabby enclosures.

More than two dozen animals and birds have died at the zoo in the last few years, including nilgais, zebras, lion cubs, urial and deer. A brown bear’s leg and face were also wounded just a few months ago.

The deaths have continued since the climate change ministry took over, with a chingara, hog deer, black buck, kalij, peacock and golden pheasant dying in the last approximately two months.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2019