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KARACHI, July 22: While a huge amount of money is being spent on the import of exotic species at Karachi Zoological Gardens and Safari Park, the contractors supplying food to animals at the two facilities have not been paid millions of dues for the past several years, it emerged on Sunday.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation runs the Karachi Zoological Gardens and Safari Park.

Over Rs10 million and Rs7 million dues of the contractors have been pending for the past seven and five months, respectively, said sources. A contractor had not been paid even for the quarantine he had built in 2009 for four African elephants at Safari Park, added the sources.

The elephants were planned to be kept in the quarantine for a few months until their enclosures were built at the zoo and Safari Park.

While two of the elephants were later shifted to the zoo after the construction of their enclosure there, the one at Safari Park has not been completed for the past three years due to some financial problems.

According to experts, the enclosures should have been built before the arrival of animals at the zoo and Safari Park.

It was only this year that work on the Rs18m enclosure project was initiated, but it was stalled for some time a few weeks ago because of non-payment of dues, said the sources. They added that work resumed only after the relevant authorities assured the contractor that his dues would be cleared.

During a recent visit to Safari Park, it emerged that construction work was an additional source of annoyance for the two elephants, which are already disturbed for being confined to the small quarantine since they were four and two and a half years, respectively. Now the female and male elephants, Malka and Raju, are seven and five and a half years old, respectively, and they could barely enter or exit their resting place.

“They exhibit anger, frustration or maybe fright by repeatedly moving back and forth in the quarantine on hearing the noise machines make, though they have become less aggressive over the time,” said Sonu, an elephant keeper who has been with the animals since their arrival at Safari Park.

He said the animals ate 20-kilo food comprising fruit and fodder after every two hours.

“Though both demonstrate love, the female is more docile and obeys my orders. They are remarkably intelligent, too. At night when I am about to leave for home, they lift their feet up and allow me to chain them before I could do it on my own,” he said smilingly. “I speak to them only in Gujarati.”

It was strange that the Safari administration had posted only one full-time keeper who spent 12 hours with the animals.

When the issue was raised, Safari Park Director Bashir Saddozai acknowledged that the arrangement could cause a problem if the keeper went on a leave of absence. He added: “There are two other boys but the animals get along well with Sonu since he has been here since their arrival.”

About the dues of contractors, the official explained that arrangements were being made to pay them but insisted that there had been no interruption in the food supply. As for animal food, a letter had been sent to the finance department for payment, he added.

“The case of quarantine’s payment is not in my knowledge as I assumed the charge of Safari Park over a month ago, but I will look into the issue,” he said.

About the elephants’ enclosure, Mr Saddozai said it would be completed within a month or so as the contractor had resumed work. “We are thinking of shifting the elephants to another enclosure in Safari till then,” he said.

In reply to a question, Dr Kazim Hussain who heads the zoo said delayed payments were common in government departments. “This doesn’t mean that food supply has been affected. The contractors are bound under an agreement to provide food for a year.”

The KMC has imported a pair of tigers and white lions each and plans to import hippos at a total cost of Rs27 million through a contractor.