Open Letter to Islamabad Zoo

The bear with an open wound on its foot – June 9, 2019

The Himalayan brown bear at Islamabad Zoo is nursing an open wound on his foot, possibly maggot infested. The thousands of visitors for whom you keep captive our Pakistani wildlife now demand action to save his life.

The six month old bear cub that you probably bought from a wildlife smuggler is now 8 years old, malnourished, suffering from mange and limping around his cemented enclosure with a gaping wound at least two weeks old. His sister, also wild-caught, has already died in your care.

The general public is wondering why you have an injured animal on display. Since you haven’t yet noticed the bear’s agony, we recommend the following treatment plan by a trained and experienced wildlife veterinarian. First, remove the bear immediately from public display.

Confine him to a squeeze cage for the treatment duration. Sedate using an appropriate and safe dose of anaesthesia. If he has maggots, inject Negasunt or any available appropriate medicine into his wound. Make sure the entire wound is filled.

After 5 to 10 minutes, inject more and more of this medicine till the time the last maggots stop appearing. Begin an antibiotic course. Use the human medicine Velosef as its safe and reliable for bears. Begin multivitamins. Mycom is easily available and effective.

Spray choona (lime powder) around the squeeze cage to keep flies away. Keep the bear confined for several days till the time the wound closes and he recovers completely. Once wound heals, begin treatment for mange. Soak him in Amitraz wash.

In addition, administer medicines for endo/ecto parasites twice a year. Ivomec is recommended and can be sourced by the zoo’s veterinary medicine supplier.

We hope that you are looking after his dietary needs, and keeping an eye on his protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins intake. We plead with you to only feed him milk for a while to aid in his recovery.

We hope you include lentils, corn, bonemeal, beef, chicken, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane and several different kinds of grains. Stale leftover roti (bread) is not a suitable diet and the result of that is visible to visitors who wonder why the bear looks like a complete mess.

While you focus on his health, don’t forget to provide him enrichment such as opportunities to swim in a natural pond, to forage for some of his food, to have access to plants and trees, to have the privilege of walking on a natural substrate and not cement.

In an ideal world, the bear would not have been stolen from the wild in the name of conservation and put on display for the (convoluted?) education of Pakistani citizens. He would not be showing signs of zoochosis and ill-health that captivity induces.

In an ideal world, the bear would be enjoying his freedom in one of Pakistan’s national parks. In naya Pakistan of Imran Khan, with his focus on eco-tourism and climate crisis, the govt would educate the public about the importance of saving our biodiversity and natural heritage.

But since animals held captive like this brown bear make you a lot of money, the sacks of cash trickling up to the highest in the chain, and you will not rehabilitate him back into the wild or release to the national bear sanctuary, may we also recommend the following:

With more than 60% of the zoo’s 25 acres dedicated to zoo visitors, we recommend giving the bear access to an enclosure at least half an acre large, and letting him live the rest of his life in peace, dignity and good health in a sanctuary like environment.

Pakistani citizens concerned about wildlife in captivity.

Marghazar Zoo

Editorial in DAWN.

GOING by the reports of the past few years, it appears that exotic animals are brought to the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad for no other reason than a quick death — and a painless one isn’t always guaranteed. At the end of last year and the beginning of the new year, six nilgais died over a period of 10 days, possibly from contracting a virus. According to a report published in this paper, there are no warm enclosures in the zoo to keep the animals during the night. In another report published on Jan 14, a white cockatoo died after injuring its beak. Last August, six deer were mauled by a wolf at an extension of the zoo. Over the past few years, Marghazar Zoo has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Onlookers have pointed to the insufficient or bad quality of the food provided to the animals, the poor health of the latter, the small cages in which they are locked up — all in addition to the general apathy of the zoo staff.

The neglect of the zoo’s solitary elephant, 33-year-old Kaavan, has also drawn international attention, and there is a #SaveKaavan hashtag on social media. The sensitive and sociable creature’s partner, Saheli, died in 2012 from a leg infection at just 22 years of age. Since then, he is said to be distressed and showing signs of ‘mental illness’. Representatives of an international animal rights organisation advised the government to put Kaavan in the care of an animal sanctuary, released of the chains that bind him. As a result of the public outcry, the climate change minister informed a Senate committee that she had requested the government to hand over administration of the zoo to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board. While there are many compelling arguments against zoos, in countries like ours, zoos are an educational experience for children and a relatively low-cost recreation activity for families. But are a few hours of fun for humans worth a lifetime of suffering for animals?

February 23, 2019.

Passerines for blessings soon to be illegal

A hawker sells captured passerines at a traffic signal in Karachi.

The business of selling passerines for blessing on the streets of Karachi will soon be declared a criminal offence thanks to the tireless efforts of our team. Birds such as mynahs, sparrows, robins, munias and chats are captured by trappers from the suburban areas of the city. Crammed into tiny, suffocating makeshift cages the birds suffer immensely while the trappers cash in on people’s emotions to complete the cruel chain by doing the ‘good deed’ of setting them free again. However, most of the birds are dehydrated and exhausted after being shaken in sacks all day under the burning sun and perish soon after in the concrete jungle far away from their source of food and shelter.

The Sindh Wildlife Department used to acknowledge it as a livelihood and was wrongfully issuing permits to hawkers allowing this cruel business to flourish in the city. 

Senators ask mayor to protect zoo animals

ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Interior on Monday directed Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz to take steps to protect animals in Islamabad zoo. The Senate committee, which met at the Parliament House with Senator Rehman Malik in the chair, also discussed the alarming death of animals in Marghazar Zoo and its poor condition.

News Report in DAWN on January 8, 2019

More here.

Eliminating rabies

In response to growing concerns of dog-bite incidents in Karachi, a pilot project, in which this writer participated, was formed under the aegis of Indus Hospital Research Centre from January to December 2018. The project was implemented in Ibrahim Hyderi, selected because of its proximity to the hospital, and recorded outbreaks of rabies from within the village. The mission was in collaboration with Karachi’s leading veterinarians, animal-right activists, community engagement experts, doctors and researchers. At the start, the community was engaged and a baseline of dog count established. Dog-catchers were trained by an international expert, and veterinarians were trained for animal birth control. Animal vaccines were provided by the WHO, and funding was partially provided by the KMC, along with donations from members of civil society.

Naseem Salahuddin in DAWN

More here.

Call for volunteer project manager – Forever Against Animal Testing

In order to reach our goal of 250,000 signatures from Pakistan by August 20th, we are looking for a full-time volunteer project manager on behalf of PAWS to coordinate with individuals and schools/college/organisations in setting up information booths and collecting signatures on official The BodyShop® petition forms. The manager will

  • Plan and create a strategy/timeline to help us reach our goal.
  • Host a campaign launch event at a school or organisation.
  • Coordinate with The BodyShop® to send official petition forms to volunteers/organisations, and make sure they return them.
  • Be available in person at some of the events or arrange for volunteers to man the booths.
  • Manage the campaign on our social media accounts (Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram).