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Bengal tigers, white lions arrive at zoo

July 16, 2012


KARACHI, July 15: The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation succeeded in bringing four imported big cats to the zoo after getting clearance from the customs authorities on Sunday, though it had not acquired the mandatory no-objection certificate from the Islamabad-based National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW), it has emerged.

Confined to a cage during their long journey, a pair of Bengal tigers, aged between three and four years, were the first to arrive early morning through Qatar Airways at Karachi airport.

The animals further suffered at the airport on account of a lack of preparedness by KMC officials, who did not have the relevant documents to get the consignment cleared from the airport.

“It was almost a two-day travel for the Bengal tigers that arrived from Belgium at about 5.30am at Karachi airport. The absence of relevant KMC officials and proper documents took us almost eight hours to get the animals cleared. After submitting the declaration papers, the KMC officials also submitted an undertaking that the NOC would be given to the customs authorities as soon as it is available,” said a government official.

There was not much trouble in the clearance of white lions as the papers were kept ready in time, the official said, adding that the pair was brought from South Africa through Thai Airways late in the evening. Both pairs, cost about Rs17 million, were shifted to the Karachi Zoological Gardens. The Bengal tigers would be shifted to the Safari Park once their enclosure is ready there.

None of the visitors, including the media, was allowed to see the Bengal tigers whose enclosure was covered from all sides.

“The KMC administrator would inaugurate the animals’ arrival at the zoo tomorrow (Monday). Till then nobody is allowed to take a picture,” said a zoo staffer.

Big cats imported without NOC Speaking to Dawn, Umeed Khalid, representing the NCCW, said: “No NOC has yet been issued to the KMC for the import of big cats and we are still waiting for the Sindh wildlife department’s report in this regard”.

He, however, did not comment on the import of animals in the absence of the required NOC.

The KMC had given the contract of importing pairs of lions, tigers and hippos this year to the Three B Enterprise against which a case has been pending since 2007, according to the Sindh wildlife department records.

The company, according to the records, was accused of importing two pairs of tigers and three lions on a fake permit and apparently had close association with Osaka Traders, another company involved in animal import business, against which two cases have been pending in courts on similar charges.

Sindh Wildlife Conservator Saeed Baloch was not available for comments on Sunday.

Speaking to Dawn a day earlier he said that the NCCW had asked the department to check the KMC’s facilities for keeping animals and that had been done. “I’m not aware of the final status of things, but the report to be sent to the NCCW is in process. The NCCW has instructed the KMC to attach relevant CITES [the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species] permits.”

Asked about raising concern over the contractor, he said the NCCW had the authority to allow anyone to import animals and it could ask the wildlife department to investigate the importer’s credentials. “No department has requested us to inquire about the importer,” he said. Answering a question that why haste was shown and the animals were brought without an NOC, Rehan Khan, the KMC’s senior director for culture, sports and recreation, said the KMC got an NOC from the Sindh wildlife department. When he was told that the NOC was needed from the NCCW in case of animal imports, he replied that the fact that the animals were released by the customs was evidence that they were brought in legally.

About giving a lucrative contract to an importer against whom a case was pending and not availing the option of a direct import which could have saved the KMC a lot of money, Rehan Khan said: “I’d look into the matter. We didn’t choose any party and awarded the contract to the lowest bidder. Negotiations with a second lowest bidder are not allowed under the new procurement rules. You are right about Irfan (owner of Osaka Traders). But the contract has been given to another person whose name I can’t recall right now.”

The wildlife department had not raised any objections against the importer, he said, adding that the media should highlight the good being done at the government-run recreational places.

Mr Khan, however, could not give a satisfactory reply when asked if the KMC had requested the wildlife department to inquire about the importer’s credentials.