02 Dec

Meeting with Karachi Administrator about Zoo Management

On Thursday, December 1, 2011, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation called a meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss the setting up of a management committee for the Karachi Zoo to oversee its policy matters. The need for a public-private partnership was stressed in order to improve conditions for the animals at the zoo. The meeting minutes are as follows:

Meeting called by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation
Karachi Zoo Management
District Commissioner House, Karachi
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Participants:

KMC Administrator Muhammad Hussain Syed (MHS)

Dr. Kazim Hussain
Veterinarian and Acting Director, Karachi Zoo

Uzma Khan (UK)
Member, Management Committee, Lahore Zoo
Biodiversity Director, World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan)

Rab Nawaz (RN)
Director, Indus Ecoregion Programme, World Wildlife Fund (WWF-Pakistan)

Umeed Khalid
Conservator Wildlife, National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW)

Mahera Omar (MO)
Maheen Zia (MZ)
Co-Founders, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

Madiha Javed (MJ)
Express Television

Minutes of the Meeting:

A management committee for the Karachi Zoo will be set up to oversee its policy matters and finances. The zoo should be an independent body with its own Board of Directors. Currently, it is under the management of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, and so does not have the authority in the running of its own affairs. The zoo also needs a full-time director as it is the veterinarian who is filling in as director temporarily. A consultant can be hired to make plans for upgrading the facilities at the zoo. (MHS)

It is important to understand why zoos exist in the first place. Their role is education, and not conservation. WWF can help Karachi Zoo set up an education program which would include developing educational materials and providing training for its staff. Generally, the Karachi Zoo is considered to be more of a picnic spot, with no emphasis on creating awareness about the importance of conserving wildlife in their own habitats. WWF would be happy to hire an education officer for the zoo. The Lahore Zoo and Safari have a master plan. There is a need to develop such a vision for the Karachi Zoo as well. (UK)

We should focus on local species and try to create more awareness about their conservation, rather than acquiring more and more foreign species. In addition, any animal that is acquired must be from one zoo to another, and not from an animal dealer. (RN)

Last year the zoo earned an income of Rupees 2 crore and 30 lakhs. But since the funds are not under the zoo’s control, it’s requirements are not able to be fulfilled. (KH)

Lahore Zoo has its own bank account. There is transparency in their management since the committee has to approve any expenditure before the funds are utilized. Once such a system is in place in Karachi as well, then one can move forward with better zoo management. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) provides guidelines and support to zoos about “animal care and welfare, conservation of biodiversity, environmental education and global sustainability”. Members of the WAZA network are obliged to comply with their code of ethics, and such an organisation is a great resource for the Karachi Zoo. (UK)

The National Council for Conservation of Wildlife (NCCW) is responsible for issuing No Objection Certificates before any private party trade in wildlife. Certain international conventions, such as CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, aims to ensure that “international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.” Pakistan is a signatory to this convention, and therefore must not illegally acquire animals from the wild for any of its zoos. (Umeed Khalid)

In an ideal world, there would be no zoos. Wild animals belong in the wild and not meant to lead a life in captivity. Captive animals, especially those kept in inhumane conditions, send a wrong message to zoo visitors. This message is enforced most strongly amongst young children, who then grow up to believe its okay to cage wild animals. A prime example is the barren, tiled enclosures of the indigenous fishing cats that are kept in solitary confinement. Their enclosures bear no resemblance to their natural wetland habitat. The focus of being able to see wild animals up close should be on the importance of protecting their original habitats, which are fast depleting in Pakistan. Capturing wild animals from their natural habitats, and separating the young from their mothers, as in the case of the 4 baby elephants, is another practice which the Karachi Zoo must not condone. (MZ)

It is important to use this opportunity to introduce better zoo management practices and upgrade the existing facilities, so that the right kind of message be sent out to our future generations. At the same time, it is also important to remember our city animals and revive the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), so that the system of animal inspectors is once again initiated and a humane stray dog management strategy is implemented. (MO)

Not every initiative requires funds. Social media, such as facebook, can be used to engage the public and create awareness about protecting wild animals and their habitats. Learning from the successful example of the Mohatta Palace Museum, perhaps the Karachi Zoo could also be managed as a public-private sector partnership. (MJ)

It was jointly decided that a follow up meeting will be held soon.

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