ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday criticised the Ministry of Climate Change for engaging in politics over zoo animals — especially those at the federal capital’s Marghazar Zoo — with Chief Justice Athar Minallah observing that “our heads should hang with shame” for ill-treatment of “God’s creatures”.
During a hearing over delays in the transfer of bears from Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo, Justice Minallah expressed anger over a lack of protection given to the bears, as well as the issue of their transfer elsewhere.
The top judge observed that at least 40 giraffes were brought to the zoo from abroad and “all of them are dead”.
“Our heads must hang with shame! The Ministry of Climate Change is responsible for such treatment of animals,” he said.
“In this entire case, it only engaged in politicking. The Ministry of Climate Change is only interested in making statements and engaging politics. [It] is responsible for harming God’s creatures,” he added.
Balkasar Sanctuary ordered to help
The judge also mentioned that the court was observing the conduct of everyone engaging in politics over zoo animals.
The administrator of the Balkasar Sanctuary, Dr Fakhar, also appeared during the court hearing, saying the bears were safer in Islamabad than the shelter in the town in Chakwal.
“Balkasar has a smaller space for bears than Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo,” Dr Fakhar told the court.
The IHC, however, remarked that although the Balkasar Sanctuary was a private property, its administration should help the government transfer the bears. The court also directed the Ministry of Climate Change to make a decision on bears by August 3.
Lioness dead, lion nearing death
Earlier today, reports emerged that the lioness in Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo had died and the lion was nearing death.
A video obtained by Geo News showed mismanagement at the zoo while the lion was being taken out of its cage. According to the clip, the zoo staff had set fire in the cage and used sticks to scare off the animal but it got frightened and confused instead.
Sources informed Geo News that the lion sustained injuries due to the staff’s mismanagement during its transfer from Marghazar Zoo to Lahore. The animal’s condition was not well, they added.
Sources further underlined how several animals, including deer and birds, were injured during earlier transfer processes. Moreover, three Belgian Blue cows and an ostrich have also died during transferring.
Multiple animals at Islamabad zoo dead
Zoo officials, on the other hand, admitted that six deer had died during transfer so far. These included two spotted deer, two elks, and one Indian gazelle.
In addition, they acknowledged that a Belgian Blue cow, as well as a lion, lioness, and ostrich each had also died. Officials said the bird had died due to a cloth being tied over its face.
In this regard, zoologist have opined that the reason animals were dying was transfer processes being carried out during unfavorable weather conditions.
Cold weather, on the other hand, is a good choice for the shifting of animals, the experts said.
‘Many issues’ in Pakistan’s captive facilities
The Pakistan chapter of wilderness preservation NGO, the World Wide Fund for Nature, also issued a statement condemning the lion’s ill-treatment at Islamabad Zoo.
The WWF-Pakistan “has expressed its disappointment to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and hopes that those who are responsible will be brought to justice for this repulsive act”, it said on Twitter.
“In the wake of this incident, as a protest, WWF-Pakistan has also stepped down from the Board of the IWMB, of which it has been a member for several years,” it added.
The NGO noted that there were multiples examples of zoos supporting wildlife conservation and helping bring back endangered species from the brink of extinction. However, “there are many issues related to animal welfare in captive facilities in Pakistan that need urgent attention,” it added.
“Thus WWF-Pakistan has offered to help improve the condition of zoos in the country and has lobbied for zoo standards and legislation, promoting cooperation and capacity building for an overall improved environment for the animals,” it added.
In an unrelated development, documents for the transfer of Kaavan, the elephant, to Cambodia have been prepared, sources told The News.