By: Fizza Bangash
According to World Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ substandard zoo issue, a substandard zoo can be defined in the following ways.
• Those that don’t know how
• Those that don’t care “deliberately substandard”
• Those that cannot afford it
• Those that have been affected by forces beyond their control “war, natural calamity, etc.”
Unfortunately, Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo is the poster child of substandard zoos.
Overshadowed by the beautiful Margalla Hills, the zoo is a hotspot for tourists.
The zoo sticks out like a sore thumb in the well-groomed city of Islamabad.
The recent death of Saheli, the zoo’s resident elephant raised concerns amongst the animal lovers in Islamabad. According to an autopsy report of Saheli, she died of a heart attack because her chest was in a suppressed position and she’d been lying down on the ground for two days. The elephant had been suffering from severe pain in one of her feet for nearly two months. She died as a result of negligence. The authorities simply don’t care.
“We categorically deny that Saheli died because of our carelessness,” says Director Marghazar Zoo, Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah.”That was a natural death caused by lateral recumbent position which caused suffocation. We did try to treat her in vain. She was 22 and was well kept all the time.”
The Grey Goral, a deer species kept at the zoo, could be seen limping in its cage. There is only one Grey Wolf which lay at a corner of it’s cage, clearly in distress. There are two brown beers, one of them was shaking his head violently in a continuous manner while the other doesn’t even seem strong enough to stand up. The Black Bucks and the NilGai are kept in the same facility. The Asian Jackals seem to be suffering from some skin disease, with their fur coat full of bald patches. The pond that the ducks are kept in looks more like a swamp which hasn’t been cleaned for ages.
There is a distinct absence of grass in majority of cages. The facility for the only elephant left is simply not large enough. It is kept chained to a fence at a corner. According to animal psychologists, chaining up an elephant leaves the same effect on the animal as leaving a human in a solitary confinement does.
However, Director Marghazar Zoo has a different opinion to offer. “We have to manage zoo affairs within the amount provided by the CDA and try our level best to utilize the funds appropriately and effectively,” he says. “Conditions are not bad at all in the zoo, rather we think that this is the best zoo in Pakistan in given circumstances.”
According to WAZA, a distinct feature of a substandard zoo is “Negative impact on the animal welfare, unsuitable living environments for animals; lack of husbandry and veterinary care and expertise such as sanitation, nutrition, preventative medicine, etc.; visitor misbehavior such as feeding, teasing, violence, stress, etc.”
This can be observed during a visit to the Marghazar zoo. There is no check on the visitors as to what they’re feeding to the animals. A large number of animals, including wolves, lions and deer, have deceased over the years due to improper care. International Zoo standards are not observed when it comes to building proper facilities for the animals.
A “No Entry” sign could be seen hung up on every cage yet the gates are not bolted. Just a few years back, a young girl named Saleha Saleem was bitten by a monkey at the Islamabad Zoo while she was standing too close to the cage. Wild bores can be seen sifting through a pile of garbage near the zoo’s park.
Such gross violations of International Zoo standards and such carelessness on the part of CDA and the Marghazar Zoo administration are completely against animal rights. This not only undermines the zoo’s credibility but is also a cause of great concern for animal lovers in general. The Central Development Authority should take appropriate measures to fix these problems as soon as possible.