Lahore Zoo Faces an Uncertain Future

 

An import ban has stopped menageries across the country from bringing in exotic mammals


by Asif Mehmood/ Oct 18, 2022

children offering grass to herbivores in lahore zoo photo app

Children offering grass to herbivores in Lahore zoo.

Free Entry to Zoo for Students on Sundays

The provincial government is creating a portal for selling entry tickets to the zoo online. The government has also decided to make entry to the zoo free for students on Sundays.

The Provincial Minister for Forests, Abbas Ali Shah, had ordered the officials to improve the quality of food given to animals besides improving security-related matters.

He said that sick animals should be provided with immediate treatment.

The minister also expressed his grave concern over the dormant role of the Zoo Management Committee. He also sought a report from officers regarding animal breading. The minister also ordered the committee to draw a plan of action to increase the ratio of tigresses and lionesses at the zoo and ordered for immediate planning to get pairs of animals for breeding.

Abbas Ali Shah emphasized on improving parking facilities at the zoo.

The minister stressed on the need for installing stalls at the zoo to make visitors aware of plantation.

He said that the zoo should be turned into a modern, visitor-friendly place.

In the past few years, many rare species of animals have died whilst being housed at Lahore Zoo and could not be replaced due to an import ban. Resultantly, the zoo’s popularity has waned and calls for alternative animal sanctuaries have seen an upsurge.

The historic zoo, built back in 1872, currently has only one giraffe, hippopotamus, and rhino in its rare animals collection. Despite the low count, the Authority Board of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), has restricted Pakistan from importing any exotic mammals. Officials of the Board are of the view that since these animals cannot be tended to properly, there is no need to confine them in zoos. After the decision, it has become difficult for menageries across the country, including the Lahore Zoo, to import rare species of foreign animals; and the imports of animals which were being processed prior to the decision, have been halted as well.

However, animal rights activists are glad that the import restrictions are in place. “Even though Lahore Zoo is quite clean, the animals over here, locked up in cages, lead a depressed life,” said Rabab, adding that it seemed like that the birds and tigers desperately wanted to be out of their cages. “The children who visit are told that the lion is the king of the jungle, but when the children see the king of the jungle lying half-dead in a cage like this, their feeling of entertainment evaporates,” a visitor opined.

Since the zoo’s popularity had declined the government should explore other options. “The animals should be kept in open spaces, which resemble their natural habitat, instead of cages. Similarly, the birds should be released into an aviary, so they can fly.”

Gone were the times when innocent animals could be kept in cages just for the entertainment of humans. Despite visitors favouring safari-style sanctuaries for the animals, officials of the Lahore Zoo informed that several attempts have been made to import exotic mammals, to increase the zoo’s visitors.

However, such attempts have not yielded any results. Ayeza Haider, an activist working for the protection and rights of wildlife in Lahore, is glad that the attempts at importing animals have failed. “Zoos should not be a source of entertainment,” Haider remarked, adding that confining animals and birds to cages was anything but entertainment.

Responding to a question about zoos serving an educational purpose, Haider said that 3D rendered models of animals could be used to educate children. “If we do not have access to such technology yet, safari parks are better animal sanctuaries. Instead of keeping them in cages, they should be left free to roam around in a safari park,” the activist suggested. She further said that the focus of the wildlife department should be on conservation and rehabilitation of endangered animals instead of providing entertainment to people.

If we really love wildlife, we should release them to their natural environment instead of locking them up in cages. Curtailing their freedom means we are harming their physical and mental growth.

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