As I was about to start my daily chores on the morning of Thursday, clinic October 10, I was interrupted by my wildly anxious maid who informed me that a lion had escaped and was roaming around Seaview. Lion? I thought, how was that possible? I brushed her aside with my total incomprehension of what was going on. She was insistent that I go and have a look. The media was there, she said, and about a hundred people had gathered behind our house, including police vans.
I caught hold of my next door neighbour, who by now was already at my door and we went onto the roof to have a look. Surely it looked pretty chaotic down there with people running here and there. I could see a few people with sticks trying to beat some bushes close to the block of flats behind us. By now what I was more worried about was that whatever wild animal they were looking for must be long gone and searching in one small area was useless. Plus I was afraid for the animal. I was sure that understandably everyone was ready to shoot and kill it without thinking twice. My daughter went down first to see what was going on and informed the SHO of the Darakshan Police station present there, that it should not be shot and they should make an effort to try and find it. By then I had already contacted a friend of mine, Mahera Omar (co-founder of PAWS) and informed her. She got in touch with the Zoo Director, one of the only people that has a tranquilizer gun (there is one more I later found out) and he said he was on his way. Then I went down to investigate. I approached the SHO and a lady who had seen the cat in the morning; plus a whole lot of media people and concerned citizens. A driver working in my block had also seen it in the morning in front of my block of flats. Anxiety and confusion was abound. What kind of cat was it – a lion, tiger? All pretty scary thoughts. This was a serious situation. It was nearly one in the afternoon and what I had thought of earlier came to mind again. They will never find it like this. The Zoo Director eventually arrived with an assistant who carried a tranquilizer gun and joined the party – journalists and helpers alike.
The commotion had calmed down to some extent when a neighbour of the block behind us, worried about his small children, had taken the initiative (he had called the cops and the Sindh Wildlife Department.) and went to see for himself. It seems he was tipped off that the cat was probably owned by a couple who lived in Block 57 and it had allegedly escaped. It seems that it had been missing for two months and a complaint had been lodged with the CPLC at that time. I found it so strange that nothing had been done about it and worse so that no one had been aware of it before this. Incompetence or sheer ignorance was the name of the game as I had already envisaged when I was looking at the scene from my roof. He had, along with a few policemen confronted the couple. He observed two more such cats, which were identified as fishing cats later, confined in a small rusty cage in their garden. The owners admitted that one had escaped two months ago. Fishing cats look like bigger versions of the domestic cat; but are a sub-species of the leopard. They are indigenous to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and live in swampy areas like mangroves with fish as their diet mostly. Was this legal, and more so wasn’t this cruel to confine three wild cats in a small cage and be so careless for such a thing to have happened?
The fire department had been alerted also, by whom I don’t know, but when I got there it seems that a fire had been started to try and smoke the cat out. It seemed so ridiculous confining themselves to one particular area, when surely the cat must have tried to get away as far as possible from so many people. The media was hungry for a story but it was blazing hot and after a couple of hours they all gave up. What should have been done was to send out small search parties immediately in different directions. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to catch a cat, which can easily slip away and not be noticed in such a vast area that Seaview is located in, where bushes and shrubbery abounds. Some people suggested traps be put out to catch the cat, but then, is any organization willing to do so?
So, true or not, rumour has it that a wild cat is loose in Seaview and the residents are very afraid. If anyone spots a wild cat in their neighbourhood, they should immediately contact the Sindh Wildlife Department at 9204952 and report the sighting. Children especially, should be told not to approach it. Wild animals do not attack accept when provoked or taunted but we must respect the fact that it is a wild animal and one should be careful. Someone said plans are afoot to place traps with bait to capture it. I just hope that happens. One commendable outcome of this whole saga is that they have confiscated the cats and they are now in the custody of the Karachi Zoo, thanks to the timely action of the Sindh Wildlife Department. This is really good news. At the end, I was glad that this incident had media coverage and hopefully it has touched some hearts enough to speak up and do something, in their own tiny way, to alleviate the plight of animals and expose the illegal trade of animals that is rampant in this country. The more awareness created for the love of animals and endangered species indigenous to our country, the better.