KARACHI: Political tussles between vested interests have left the city’s iconic Safari Park in an appalling state, a recent visit to the public recreational facility showed.

Today, the park, where some mammalian species, including elephants, are housed, is covered in dust and stands barren as its green cover has significantly shrunk and deteriorated while the place no longer offers any facility to people visiting the area.

Wild vegetation covers almost all zoo enclosures, which are now empty and being used as dumps for solid waste.

Speaking to Dawn, visitors expressed their shock and dismay over Safari Park’s conditions.

“My children are disappointed; they were expecting to see elephants and other animals from close range. But, what we see here are a few tortoises and birds,” shared a visitor, adding that almost all cages were empty.

Visitors shocked over facility’s deterioration

Some families were also found looking for snack shops as all canteens in the main area had been closed down.

Clockwise from left: Safari tour buses are gathering dust; an empty animal cage; broken washrooms for visitors; while garbage at the park’s lake indicates solid waste is not being collected on a daily basis; and (centre) A family enters a children’s play area, which is said to be operated by a private party, inside the once-iconic Safari Park.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Clockwise from left: Safari tour buses are gathering dust; an empty animal cage; broken washrooms for visitors; while garbage at the park’s lake indicates solid waste is not being collected on a daily basis; and (centre) A family enters a children’s play area, which is said to be operated by a private party, inside the once-iconic Safari Park.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

“What we do now? I am told that tuck shops are located away in the playing area for children,” said another visitor, adding that public toilets were broken and without water.

Amid this deterioration, it’s surprising to see a Dino Safari Park being developed on the premises.

Construction is also underway to give away park’s space to commercial eateries.

Sources blamed official apathy and vested interests for Safari’s poor condition.

They believed that unless qualified staff was hired and an independent expert committee was allowed to manage affairs of the facilities housing captive animals in the city, there was no hope for betterment.

They also criticised the government’s attempts to commercialize the facility.

Responding to a question about the park’s pitiable state, a senior director of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation explained that the situation would gradually improve after contractors under an agreement would be allowed to run the park facilities, including snack shops.

“These services were earlier being operated by contractors, but KMC’s financial condition turned so poor that we couldn’t even bear expenses for carrying out the annual bidding process and the department was forced to take over these facilities,” he said.

In recent weeks, he pointed out, the Karachi administrator had directed the KMC to lift the entry fee and return to the process to allow contractors to run the facilities.

He agreed that the park had been neglected due to multiple reasons.

“One major handicap has been an acute shortage of staff that has only become grave over the years. There hasn’t been any appointment for over a decade and we are now left with 15 to 20 staff members as the majority of employees have retired. In fact, we won’t have any sweeper next year, if no one is hired for this job.

“Besides, the park has an obsolete water and sewerage system that couldn’t be upgraded in time. Its area is now in depression due to road construction and development works around the park, creating tasks more challenging,” he said.

When asked to explain the government’s decision to spend huge amounts on artificial recreation like Dino Safari Park and not on animal welfare and their upkeep, he said: “The Dino Safari Park is solely the local government’s project. The KMC will hand over this facility soon. Personally, I would have gone for an animal welfare project or one which allows induction of new animals to the facility.”

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023

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