KARACHI, Dec 23: The Sindh Wildlife Department on Thursday registered a case against the “importer” of four lions (scientific name Panthera leo) on charges of bringing the animals into the country and the province without prescribed legal documents.

However, the customs authorities, who seized these lions at Karachi airport on their arrival from Islamabad and later handed them over to the SWD for safe keeping on Wednesday night, claimed that nobody had produced the relevant documents so far to get the consignment cleared.

The lions were, meanwhile, shifted to the Karachi Zoological Gardens, as neither the customs department nor the wildlife department had any such facility of their own where such carnivorous big cats could be housed.

SWD Game Officer Nazar Hussain said that a first offence report (FOR No 42/289 of 2010) — equivalent to FIR — had been registered against Mr Irfan of Osaka Traders under Sections 12, 13, 17, 33(a) of the Sindh Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1972. He said the “importer” had been charged with bringing the lions into the country without prescribed legal documents.

The SWD official said that the lions arrived from Germany at Islamabad airport first and then were flown to Karachi. He said that the “importer” probably wanted to take the lions out of the airport through local cargo, which required no customs check. But, he added, his plan could not succeed because the SWD and customs authorities had prior information about the expected consignment.

Customs’ notice Customs Assistant Collector Ataullah Shabbir said that people from Osaka Traders did come at the airport after the arrival of the lions but they did not file the valid import documents. So, technically speaking, they did not approach the customs to get the consignment cleared, he added. He said: “Since the consignment comprised live animals, the lions have been handed over to the SWD in the absence of any facility for their safe keeping at the airport.” While the SWD had shifted the animals to the zoo for safe keeping, the lions in any case would remain the property of customs till the issue was settled, he added.

The customs official said that a notice would be sent to the “importer” informing him that his goods had arrived. Through the notice, the importer would also be asked why he had not yet come to get the consignment cleared, the official said, adding that legal action would be initiated against him if he did not file the required legal documents.

Journey to Karachi Sources said that these lions had started their journey from the South African city of Johannesburg and travelled by Lufthansa to Czech Republic in November. They added that Zoological Live Animal Supplier of Bapsfontein Republic of South Africa had sent four lions in four packages to Animal Source Czechia of Bustehrad, Czech Republic, on Nov 3, 2010.

The lions were later taken to Frankfurt, Germany, from where the Animal Park of Bustehrad, Czech Republic, sent these lions through Douglas Borer Air Cargo to Islamabad for Mr Irfan of Osaka Traders. Around 7,440 Euros were paid as air freight for the lions, which were booked through airway bill No: 214-7575-6590 on a Pakistan International Airlines flight (PK 301/788), with certain directions to the airlines that lions should not be fed during transportation and they be kept in temperature ranging between 10 and 20 degrees centigrade.

Row over feed The four lions eat approximately 40 kilograms of meat a day that costs around Rs7,000, which is reportedly causing problems for the zoo, wildlife department and customs.

The zoo authorities wanted that either the SWD or someone else paid the food bill of these lions though the zoo income was said to have increased on Thursday as many visitors thronged the place where the newcomers had been housed.

The “importer” of these lions, Mr Irfan, was in the zoo for most part of the day looking after the lions and he had also provided food for them, according to Zoo Director Mansoor Kazi.

The sources said that if the zoo did not provide the food to these lions, there were chances that these could be relocated to some other government facility where the lions could be fed properly.

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