Humanity dying behind man-made cages
In 1890, the British implemented the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890 (XI of 1890) in India to provide protection to animals from human brutality
Capacity building of staff, including animal health inspectors, must be ensured. Zoos can also be utilised as conservation centres for proper breeding of endangered species
Cruelty to animals ought to be condemned. A human-animal bond needs strengthening for a close and dynamic relationship. Such relationship will not only better serve humanity, it would also benefit the animal world. Civilised nations and societies extend respect to animals. This is also stressed in all religions. Islam stresses respect for humans, fauna and flora. Human beings have feelings and can express and share their pain, problems and feelings with each other for help and solutions. Animals cannot speak, but they express their feelings through signals and body language.
Nature is very beautiful, and its beauty is enhanced with the addition of fauna and flora. In ideal conditions, animals move freely in search of their food, water and shelter in jungles, same as we move in our areas freely for similar purposes. In jungles, with the presence of animals, we don’t find any type of garbage, plastic, noise, and air pollution caused by them in their surroundings. However, we find such pollutions caused by human beings wherever we live. Industrialisation and fast living lifestyles creates this mess, which is badly damaging the environment.
Children love to see wild animals, birds and other natural objects, and find them very attractive. It is also very important for them to see these animals for knowledge and practical learning purposes. But all children cannot go to forests to see them. Also, all animals and birds are not available at one site or in one country. For this purpose, zoos are established to house different types of animals and birds. People bring their families to show them different types of species in one place.
All over the world, zoos are well maintained to provide a natural environment, which is required for wellbeing of animals and birds. Different animals and birds require a safe environment, temperature and surroundings for growth and good health.
If we look at the history of zoos all over the world, the first place where all types of animals and birds were gathered was the Ark of Prophet Noah (pbuh). On that ship, Prophet Noah (pbuh) ensured the provision of required food and environment to all animals at one place.
All over the world, zoos are well maintained to provide a natural environment, which is required for wellbeing of animals and birds. Different animals and birds require a safe environment, temperature and surroundings for growth and good health
The Lahore Zoo was built in 1872.In Pakistan, there are seven proper zoos, one each in Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Islamabad, Lahore, and Peshawar, and two in Karachi. Pakistan also has some wildlife and safari parks. The condition of these zoos and safari parks is abysmal, where animals and birds are caged without proper food, required temperature and environment. Same problems are observed in the safari parks where wild animals are supposed to be free to move according to international standards. However, even in these areas, animals are caged in small places like prisoners.
To understand the seriousness of this issue, let’s have a very quick look at some documented news of negligence that caused loss of lives by untrained zookeepers.
April 2007: Stray dogs killed 28 peacocks in the Lahore Zoo
August 2011:Four newborn lion cubs died in the Karachi Zoo
July 2016:The last puma cub died in the Karachi Zoo
November 2017: A male cheetah died after one year of being brought to Pakistan
January 2018: 10-year-old Simba found dead in the Karachi Zoo
December 2018-January 2019: Seven nilgais were poisoned in the Islamabad Zoo
These are only a few incidents that were documented by media. With research, we can find some more murders and negligent cases behind man-made cages. The reason behind all these incidents is mismanagement, and untrained and incompetent staff. Proper feeding is also one of the major causes that make animals more miserable. This sector is also badly damaged by corruption at all levels. No proper mechanism is in place to take care of these innocent prisoners.
Out of zoos, story is also the same. Most people do not take proper care of their livestock, pets, aquatic and other animals. Most people treat all animals badly, and even kill them without any reason. For some families, these animals are working as breadwinners, but even then owners never give them the required care. There are many documented incidents where people misbehaved and killed animals on streets.
Strangely, at the district level, there are very efficient departments to kill stray dogs and animals. But unfortunately, there are no departments to take care of those stray animals at the same level. In developed countries, you can find different departments to take care of stray animals. In 1890, the British implemented the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1890 (XI of 1890) in India to provide protection to animals from human brutality. At that time, there were heavy penalties on killing of any animal. For such acts, 50 to 200 rupees fine was imposed, which was a heavy amount at that time.
In Pakistan, we still have the same century-old law, following the same minimal penalties and fines to impose. Amazingly, there is no official punishment for prosecuted offenders, and this and ACT has never been properly implemented. There is barely any awareness as to how to behave with pets, animals, and birds.
In 2018, Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja forwarded a bill for an amendment to this Act in the Senate. The purpose of this bill was to increase the fine and penalties according to the current requirements. The proposed penalty in different categories was from Rs 100,000 to 300,000. The purpose of this amendment was to ensure stricter punishments, and for protection of animals from human brutality.
At community level, we need to create awareness in print, electronic and social media on how to avoid negligence and brutality to pets, animals and birds not only in zoos but also in safari and wildlife parks. We should sensitise our people for proper care of these harmless creatures.
As a trendsetter, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute(SDPI) raised its voice on this issue, and provided a base for public awareness. From its flagship Monday conference, on July 8,2018, the SDPI organised a seminar on “The State of Zoos in Pakistan: Searching for Humanity”. The SDPI invited experts from relevant fields who shared their thoughts on the issue.
Experts said that zoos in Pakistan are questionable on many fronts, including capacity, skilled human resources, infrastructure, and security. Before gearing up to fully protect zoos and wildlife parks, there remains a need to increase civic engagement, and educate the public about animals’ rights as well as their importance to biodiversity and ecosystem. Inefficiency of the management, poor governance structure, and lack of an accountability mechanism are largely responsible for the miserable state of zoos in the country. The authorities also need to take care of animals’ food and health, and provide a recreational environment as per international standards.
Dr Imran Khalid, from the SDPI, urged the authorities to take the responsibility of conserving zoos and wildlife as per international biodiversity conventions. Katie Sipra, an American national, and a volunteer zookeeper, stressed the need of conserving animals in zoos through animal management, research, recreation, and educational programmes. She said that zoos and wildlife parks should be taken care of by highly trained individuals who are passionate about their profession. Ms Sipra is currently working as a scientific officer at COMSATS University Bio-Science Department.
The government must also strictly implement the amended Act of 1890. We should engage farmers, transporters, professionals from departments of agriculture, environment protection and wildlife, and veterinary hospitals and universities for awareness on this issue. Government and other relevant authorities should ensure proper implementation of the law. A system of licences for pets, breeding farms and aquatic animals is needed, and infirmaries should be set up and transportation of animals be made comfortable.Capacity building of staff, including animal health inspectors, must be ensured. Zoos can also be utilised as conservation centres for proper breeding of endangered species.
Universities can also play a vital role by sending students as volunteer zookeepers for any specific period. This will also create awareness in the young generation, and will enable them to learn more about the care of animals.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.