Raju and Bablu, the pair of chimpanzees recently donated to the Safari Park, having fun in their enclosure.—White Star Photo

KARACHI: The Safari Park administration has recently accepted ‘donation’ of a pair of chimpanzees without seeking information about the conservation status of the species and looking into the donor’s credentials, Dawn has learnt.

The park administration failed to give a satisfactory reply when they were asked about the global sensitivities attached to the trade of chimpanzees while the administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), under whom the Safari Park and Karachi zoo are run, responded by saying he might return the animals to the individual.

A pair of common chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, was reportedly ‘donated’ to the Safari Park by a businessman a few days ago. Both species of chimpanzee, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, are listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List. They are also listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Permits for animal import were earlier issued by the National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW), abolished under the 18th amendment. The NCCW staff is now part of the forestry wing.

Speaking to Dawn, Umeed Khalid, a conservator of wildlife, forestry wing under the ministry of disaster management, said: “No licence has been issued for the import of chimpanzees in the past 10 years. The species is critically endangered and falls under the Appendix 1 list of CITES, which means trade in these species is prohibited except in cases when the purpose is pure scientific research and education.”

Import permits for such species, he said, could only be issued to government-run facilities for wild animals and that, too, required an export permit from the country from where the animals were being imported and an import permit from the country which would receive them.

“The permission is only for state-run zoos and not for private farms,” he said.

When his attention was drawn to the recently ‘donated’ chimps to the Safari Park, he said that only the Sindh government’s wildlife department was authorised to take up such issues after the adoption of the 18th amendment by the National Assembly.

Upon contact, Salman Shamsi, director of the Safari Park, said: “I am not aware of the details of the donated chimps. You’d better seek details from the KMC administrator.”

KMC administrator Mohammad Hussain Syed said the relevant executive district officer had told him that a businessman was interested in donating animals, and he personally did not know the donor.

“I was told that his name was Mumtaz. He came over one day and left the animals in the park. Maybe he was afraid of being questioned about the animals and preferred to leave without giving any details about himself.

“There are people in the city who keep animals in their homes and at times donate them if they run out of space to keep them,” he said, adding that the park would get more ‘donations’ that would be of peacocks and ostriches.

When Mr Syed was told about the chimps’ conservation status and that the local species of peacocks were protected under the Sindh wildlife rules, he said he was not aware of it and would take care of the regulations in future.

“The peacocks I am talking about are not of the local species, but those being raised in captivity. Anyway, the department will be more careful next time, and maybe we’ll return these chimps to the donor,” he said.

Currently, the Karachi and Lahore zoos are among the only state-run facilities where these species are kept in the country; the Karachi zoo has a pair and the Lahore zoo has three females. Reportedly, two private farms, one in Karachi and the other near Thatta, also keep the animal species.

A pair of chimpanzees, being kept privately, had earlier escaped their cage in the PECHS and troubled residents. The male was shot dead while the female was captured and taken to the Karachi zoo, where she has found another mate.

Replying to Dawn’s queries, Saeed Baloch, heading the Sindh wildlife department, said his department had nothing to do with the import of chimpanzees and he would comment on it once he investigated the case of the chimps’ donation.

“The Safari Park is a government-run facility, so I assume they had made some inquiries before accepting the donation. We can ask them, though,” he said.

Regarding the presence of chimps at the private farms, he said he would collect their details before giving a statement on the issue.

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