Thursday, June 17, 2010

To put thee in a Zoo or not?

It has been a raging debate among animal lovers and city managements for a very long time whether to have zoological gardens for entertainment and educational purposes or not. However, it seems this debate will never end, though the species they encage may.

The conditions at the Karachi Zoo are not hidden from anybody, it is one of the cheapest recreational spots for the lower income group. Starting with an entry fee of only Rs 5, it is a lush green area within the polluted metropolitan. A safe haven for the many, who live in cramped, humid conditions in their tiny apartments or homes with a few hours of regular electric supply to provide relief in the burning weather.

Nonetheless, if one wants to see healthy animals in the zoo premises, one is bound to be disappointed. Most of the animals not only look malnourished but apparently look deeply discomfited with their surroundings along with the ogling crowd. A recent visit revealed that the Lioness has some sort of an eye infection that has turned its eye completely red. On inquiry it was discovered that the zoo does not have a permanent resident veterinary.

A cursory inspection of the female Ostrich reveals a featherless back due to some disease. Moreover the signage at the zoo is also in a deplorable condition, with no proper maps or directions. The boards on the enclosures that disclose the name of the encaged animal in both Urdu and English along with the habitat description are also either wrongly titled or missing. Under these conditions it would be better to turn the zoological gardens to merely a botanical garden or a huge aviary as the best feature of the whole zoo is the large water pool inhabited by several geese, a lone black swan, a few mallards and several other types of cranes and pelicans that the zoo management do not bother to inform the visitors about.

If not the zoo management must make more animal friendly enclosures that are closer to the natural habitats of the captured species. When the Director of the Zoo Dr Mansoor Qazi was contacted he stated that the conditions at the zoo can only be upgraded with proper participation from the concerned authorities like the City District Government Karachi, as well as the municipalities.

Elephant enclosures

The elephants have recently been brought to the zoo, to the delight of children and adults alike. Interestingly, the cage of the two baby female elephants appears to have deformed suddenly after their arrival. During a previous visit, the elephant enclosures had thick and cylindrical steel columns. To a trained eye, the first glance revealed that the distance between the columns was insufficient to keep a baby elephant from passing in-between, however, when the supervisor who was busy on site at that time was asked about the distance he said, “We have kept the distance this big so that it is possible for the caretaker to get in and out fast in case the elephants get angry.”

When it was pointed out to him that the distance would even allow the elephant to go in and out, he merely laughed and said, “We know what we are doing here; it is not as simple as that.”

Despite the supervisor’s assurance, once the elephants were moved in round horizontal sections were added to keep the baby elephants from straying outside their enclosures. So much for the City District Government Karachi’s experts, contractors and so-called engineers, if a simple zoo-enclosure can be messed up, what must happen with the infrastructure and development is something one can only guess.

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