Water birds, turtles and crocodiles at the Karachi Zoo have not been properly fed for the past few months apparently because the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has not paid dues to contractors despite earning millions of rupees every year from the facility.
In three months the animals — which used to be fed on fish on a daily basis — have been served with fish only thrice. A zookeeper said: “There has been a major reduction in quality and quantity of feed over the months though everything on paper seems fine.”
The KMC, which manages all recreational facilities across the city, earns around Rs 40 million annually from the zoo, but not a single rupee is given to the zoo administration to make timely payment to the contractors and address emergency needs.
Delay in release of fund and lack of financial autonomy are also affecting zoo projects including the reconstruction of a quarantine facility. “This is disturbing as we are compelled to keep sick animals for exhibition, while the animals suffering from injuries and illnesses have no place to rest in peace away from public view,” said an official, complaining that delay in payment of salaries to zoo staff and feed contractors had become a matter of routine.
He particularly mentioned the ailing Bactrian camel and Bengal tiger that spent months in pain in their enclosures but were never isolated and kept in the quarantine as the facility had been under construction. “The construction work is still incomplete,” he said.
A zoo official said a former KMC administrator had issued a notification that the zoo would be given 20 percent of its annual income but that order was yet to be implemented.
The KMC income from the zoo had increased from Rs 20.17 million in 2011-12 to Rs 30.7 million in 2013. In 2014, the KMC increased zoo entry fee after setting the revenue target of Rs 40.26 million.
The entry fee contract was awarded for over Rs 20 million in 2014 whereas it had been given for around Rs 10 million in 2013.
“We have to request in writing for every single item that is required and it often takes weeks and months for approval. Feed contractors have recently warned the zoo administration of stopping supplies if payments were not paid in coming weeks,” said a zoo staff member.
Another factor badly affecting zoo affairs was the hiring of unqualified staff. The zoo director like his predecessor, they said, had no qualification in animal care while most zookeepers were actually sweepers whose hiring, too, was based on a political basis.
“The zoo is just a source to make money for the KMC and nothing else. You would either laugh or cry if you come to know that no one at this zoo, that claims to have around 100 mammals, is able to conduct a minor operation. The operating theatre has lost its utility and it is not even used for a post-mortem examination that is conducted on the ground in an isolated area,” said a retired zoo staff.
When asked, zoo director Fahim Khan, who has earlier served in the KMC administration, admitted that the feed suppliers had warned about their liabilities that amounted to from Rs 20 million to Rs 30 million. “But we are managing feed supplies and presently there is no shortage. Funds for the quarantine have been released and the remaining 20 per cent work will be completed soon,” he insisted, rejecting the information that animals were being deprived of sufficient feed.
However, he conceded that the zoo lacked financial autonomy and it received nothing from its annual earning that was around Rs40.5m. “The income goes directly into the KMC account,” he said.
Asked about the use of the operating theatre and post-mortem examination, he said: “We have had no operation at the hospital since I have been here [for more than a year]. I think there is a room inside the hospital where post-mortem is conducted but I am not sure. Actually, a post-mortem is not done in my presence.”
Senior KMC director for culture, sports and recreation Rehan Khan was not available for comments.