Zoos: Protecting Endangered Species or Abusing Animals?

The recent news about the ailing elephant, Noor Jehan, at Karachi Zoo has once again highlighted the animal welfare issue in Pakistan. Noor Jehan had initially been diagnosed with “an inner hematoma with a damaged pelvic diaphragm” but was expected to recover after treatment by the Four Paws team earlier this month. However, the situation worsened when Noor Jehan fell into a pond in the small enclosure where she was being kept captive. Animal rights activists allege that she lay helpless in the pond for almost 11 hours before being ‘rescued’ using cranes and ropes.

The tragic incident has sparked a debate about whether zoos in Pakistan are sanctuaries or prisons for animals.

Zoos: Prisons for Animals

In Pakistan, zoos are often criticized for their poor conditions and lack of animal care. Animals are often kept in small enclosures with little or no regard for their natural habitats. They are frequently subjected to inhumane conditions, such as cramped living spaces, lack of proper nutrition, and inadequate veterinary care. Animals may also suffer psychological distress due to a lack stimulation and socialization. Examples of poor animal welfare in Pakistani zoos include:

  1. Elephants: Elephants are one of the most abused animals in Pakistani zoos. They are often chained and forced to stand on hard surfaces for extended periods. This can lead to foot and joint problems, which can cause long-term damage to their health.
  2. Bears: Bears are another species that suffer in Pakistani zoos. They are often kept in small cages without access to fresh water or proper nutrition. Many bears are also subjected to painful procedures, such as pulling their teeth out or removing claws.
  3. Lions: Lions are typically kept in small enclosures in Pakistani zoos, which can cause them psychological distress. They are also often underfed and suffer from dehydration.

Zoos: Sanctuaries for Animals

Despite the negative aspects of zoos, they can also serve as sanctuaries for needy animals. In many cases, zoos are involved in conservation efforts, such as breeding programs and research initiatives. Zoos can also be a place where people can learn about different species and appreciate the importance of animal conservation. Examples of well-managed zoos in Pakistan include:

  1. Lahore Zoo: The Lahore Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in Pakistan and is known for its conservation efforts. The zoo has a breeding program for endangered species, such as the Indus River dolphin, and a veterinary hospital for the animals.
  2. Islamabad Zoo: The Islamabad Zoo is home to various animal species and has a breeding program for endangered animals, such as the Margalla Hills National Park Markhor. The zoo also has a veterinary hospital and a research centre for animal behavior.

Improving Animal Welfare in Pakistan

Despite well-managed zoos in Pakistan, animal welfare remains a major issue. To improve conditions for animals in Pakistani zoos, several steps can be taken:

  1. Improved regulations: The government can enforce stricter regulations to ensure that zoos meet minimum animal welfare standards. This can include regulations on living conditions, nutrition, and veterinary care.
  2. Training for zoo staff: Staff at Pakistani zoos need to be trained in proper animal care techniques. This can include training on animal behavior, nutrition, and medical care.
  3. Education and awareness: The public needs to be educated about the importance of animal welfare and the negative effects of animal abuse. This can include public awareness campaigns, school programs, and social media campaigns.

By working together, we can create a better future for animals in Pakistani zoos and ensure they are treated with the respect and care they deserve.

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