The State of Health of Rhinoceros & Hippopotamus at the Lahore Zoo

photo lahore zoo

The deplorable living conditions of a rhinoceros and hippopotamus at Lahore Zoo has triggered a debate about the dearth of facilities at the zoos in Pakistan.

There are loopholes and systemic inadequacies of zoos across the country, which are neither able to mimic the natural habitat of the mammals nor provide them with the required nutrition.

“Sadly, the mammals in our zoos are kept in an unfamiliar environment, in terms of their enclosures and diets, and are also handled by untrained zookeepers, leading many towards an early death,” regretted a wildlife expert and former deputy director of Punjab Wildlife. His claims are supported by the fact that Suzi, the only elephant of Lahore Zoo passed away in 2017 at the age of 31, whereas a female rhinoceros and male hippopotamus, passed away prematurely in between 2014 and 2015.

It is pertinent to mention that the Lal Suhanra National Park in Bahawalpur had also brought in a pair of male and female rhinoceros, only to witness them breathing their last in 2019.

Even though the deceased hippopotamus and rhinoceros at Lahore Zoo have been survived by their mates, the extreme level of isolation and the poor living conditions, have left the lives of the only hippopotamus in the province and the only African rhinoceros in the country, on thin ice.

When quizzed about the probable cause behind the high mortality rate of the wildlife mammals, Dr Zulfiqar Ali, wildlife biologist and Head of Department of the Punjab University’s Zoology Department said, “wild animals like elephants, rhinoceros and hippopotamus move around in groups in their natural environment in the jungle. When they are kept in suboptimal conditions in zoos, where they are isolated and restricted in their movement, they can easily become depressed and develop health issues.”

Dr Zulfiqar further attributed the death of the large animals in zoos to the lack of modern medical facilities, which prevent regular health check-ups and scans for ailing animals.

While Dr Zulfikar’s assertion might be descriptive of the on-round reality for zoos across the country, Kiran Salim, Deputy Director of Lahore Zoo, believes that it does not apply to Lahore Zoo.

Every three months, we take blood samples from big cats like lions and tigers and also schedule private X-ray scans on an ad hoc basis. However, the facilities do not exist for the endangered hippopotamus and rhinoceros.

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