Govt undecided about fate of two bears, lone elephant in capital zoo

Updated 20 Sep 2020


The Ministry of Climate Change is in the process of deciding the best course of action for the welfare of the animals. — Photo by Irfan Haider/File
The Ministry of Climate Change is in the process of deciding the best course of action for the welfare of the animals. — Photo by Irfan Haider/File

ISLAMABAD: While the wolves await to be shifted to their newly-built cages in Ayub National Park in Rawalpindi, the fate of two bears and the lone elephant in the zoo in Islamabad is yet to be decided.

“New cages have been built for the wolves, and they will be shifted to the Ayub Park as soon as the government gives the final go-ahead. However, the government is still indecisive about where to shift the two Himalayan brown bears,” Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Chairman Dr Anis Rehman told Dawn.

A team of Austrian experts from Four Paws, which arrived in the capital last month, offered to take the bears to one of their sanctuaries in Jordan where they would get better care.

Four Paws is an international animal welfare organisation committed to encouraging people to treat animals with respect, compassion and understanding. It has presence in 15 countries. The team arrived on the invitation of the government on August 22.

The six-member team had come to evaluate the condition of the lone elephant at the zoo before it could be allowed to undertake the seven-hour journey to its 25,000-acre retirement home in Cambodia.

Austrian team waiting for a final word to take bears with them

Four Paws said Kaavan was obese, terribly lonely and in the need of foot care which cannot be provided at the Islamabad zoo due to lack of facilities.

The team is still in Islamabad waiting for the final word from the government to take the bears with them.

Earlier this month, the team of experts had operated on the female bear which was in a critical condition.

The team darted the bear to clean an infected five to six inches long cut on the chest.

The bear has been in pain for a year now. Two bear sanctuaries in Punjab have already refused to accept the bears.

According to a source in the Ministry of Climate Change, the government is indecisive if it is viable to send the elephant to Cambodia and the bears to Jordan.

“The government is concerned that sending the animals to sanctuaries outside Pakistan brings a bad name to the country. No country would want to give animals to Islamabad zoo ever again,” he said.

A two-and-a-half minutes video by Brut Nature, which is a news media company, has been doing the round on social media showing how the doors of the zoo are now shut and its 30 wild animals await rescue.

It highlights how international organisations have been raising alarms about abuse of animals in the zoo.

It also shows footage of the zoo handlers lighting fire inside the cage of lions.

Two lions died of asphyxiation following the primitive methods used to shift the lions to a sanctuary in Kasur.

When contacted, spokesperson for the Ministry of Climate Change Mohammad Saleem said there was no doubt that the animals were in a terrible condition.

The ministry is in the process of deciding the best course of action for the welfare of the animals.

“The expert committee formed to assist the government to shift the zoo animals following Islamabad High Court (IHC) orders has some reservations about shifting Kaavan to the elephant sanctuary in Cambodia. One of the experts in the committee advises against shifting the elephant to Cambodia. He fears that Kaavan might not survive the journey and even if it does it will be isolated in the new home,” the official said.

Mr Saleem said the government is also considering the suggestion of improving the existing living conditions for Kaavan to international standards, expanding the elephant enclosure and introducing other animals into the bigger space to give it company in consultation with international experts.

“However, the team of Austrian experts has declared Kaavan and the two brown Himalayan brown bears fit for travel,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2020