Lion also dies two days after lioness’ death in Punjab

Updated 31 Jul 2020

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Inquiry committee to investigate deaths of Marghazar Zoo animals during relocation. — AFP/File
Inquiry committee to investigate deaths of Marghazar Zoo animals during relocation. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam has formed an inquiry committee to investigate the deaths of animals from the Marghazar Zoo.

A lioness died upon arrival at a lion breeding sanctuary two days ago, after which the lion, which was also seriously ill, also died, a senior official from the Ministry of Climate Change told Dawn.

The animals died on the way to the sanctuary in Kasur. A video shows handlers at the Islamabad zoo poking the lion with sticks to force it out of its enclosure, and when that failed the handlers lit fires to smoke it out and into special fabricated cages.

Ministry officials said it was ill-advised to move animals during extreme weather conditions. They said the stress of the journey was compounded by the extreme weather and suffocation from the fire, killing both lions.

Ostriches, a hog deer and pheasants have also died while being moved to sanctuaries.

Inquiry committee to investigate deaths of Marghazar Zoo animals during relocation

“A high level inquiry committee, to be chaired by the additional secretary of the climate change ministry Joudat Ayaz, will look into the causes of the recent deaths of zoo animals, including lions, ostriches and other animals,” the ministry’s media focal person and deputy director Mohammad Saleem said.

The Islamabad High Court has assigned the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board the responsibility of safely moving zoo animals to wildlife sanctuaries.

“It has been brought into notice of the ministry that deaths have occurred due to bad management regarding the shifting of zoo animals and poor feeding arrangements, with which the ministry is seriously concerned, terming it intolerable and inhumane,” Mr Saleem said.

He added that the inquiry committee has been tasked with determining who is responsible for the deaths of the animals and proposing disciplinary action against those responsible.

In a statement, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan condemned the mistreatment of the lions at the zoo and expressed “grave” concerns over videos circulating on social media.

“It is absolutely abhorrent and unacceptable to treat any animal this way. WWF-Pakistan has expressed its disappointment to the IWMB and hopes that those who are responsible will be brought to justice for this repulsive act. In the wake of this incident, as a protest, WWF-Pakistan has also stepped down from the board of the IWMB, of which it has been a member for several years,” the statement said.

It added that WWF-Pakistan is aware that there are risks when moving a wild animal from one facility to another, but there “is absolutely no excuse for the treatment of an animal as seen in the videos.”

WWF-Pakistan has advocated for many years that there is an immediate need for rules and regulations for zoos in Pakistan, whether these are private or public, so that the wellbeing of animals is ensured and incidents like this are not repeated, it said, adding that although the WWF recognises the scientific and research benefits of keeping animals in captivity, it strongly advocates in-situ conservation for the wellbeing of animals.

The statement added that WWF-Pakistan has offered support to improve the condition of zoos in the country and has lobbied for zoo standards and legislation, promoting cooperation and capacity building for an overall improved environment for the animals.

Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2020