ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Climate Change plans to overhaul Marghazar Zoo from a facility having sparse concrete enclosures into a more naturalistic habitat where wild animals can be provided a healthy environment.
The zoo, which has now been shut down, was established by Capital Development Authority (CDA) in 1978 as a home for indigenous species found in the region on around 25 acres.
However, the site of the zoo along with its entire parking area is now being transformed into Margalla Wildlife Conservation Centre to be established on 82 acres of land. The transformation will be overseen by Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), which falls under the climate ministry.
“The PC1s for both the new centre and the Margalla Hills National Park are almost finalised and will be approved by the IWMB. Rs1.8 billion have already been set aside for both the centre and the conservation park that will be built near Pir Sohawa,” IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan told Dawn.
Facility to be turned into wildlife conservation centre spread on 82 acres
She said work will commence in the current month and architects will be hired to design the new, natural habitats - focused on providing wide spaces to wildlife so they can live without stress. “Work will be completed by June 2023,” she added.
The government decided to overhaul the space after Islamabad High Court (IHC) stepped in to end cruelty inflicted upon animals at the zoo, and issued orders for it to be shut down in May. Two months later, in July, the climate ministry took charge of the zoo from the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).
Continuous neglect over many years had caused animals like Kaavan and two Himalayan brown bears to fall mentally and physically sick. All the three animals were eventually taken away by a global welfare organisation for animals called Four Paws.
While animal lovers appreciated the decision, many were also upset about losing the elephant and the bears, including the climate ministry as it wanted to retain the bears so they could be shifted to a bear sanctuary it has planned to establish in MHNP.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam said the Islamabad zoo needs major repairs if it is going to last. While the new zoo will not have any elephants, habitats and open enclosures will be made for indigenous animals including mountain goats, deer and so on. The species that had been sent out from the zoo, except Kaavan and the two brown bears, will be brought back in phases, he said.
According to the ministry’s spokesperson, Mohammad Saleem, “The site will include a wildlife rescue centre for wild animals that have been injured or entrapped by poachers. There will be scientific management of the centre and a veterinary hospital for rehabilitation and recovery of captured and injured wildlife and facilities for research and education.”
The government, he said, aims to follow the model of Singapore’s Wildlife Rescue Centre for establishment of the wildlife centre in Pakistan, which will be the first of its kind in the country. The ministry is still in the process of engaging consultants, however, work on the initiative will begin this month and continue until June 2023.
Once established, the conservation centre will change the relationship between humans and animals, he said.
“Above all, the conservation centre would be a place of learning and research, spreading among visitors knowledge of birds and animals found in Pakistan,” he added.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2021