Year 2021 in Review and Season’s Greetings

As 2021 draws to a close, we look back at some of our successes for animals made possible by your support.

Our summer of 2020 began on a wonderful note with two week old rescued kitten Pixel finding a foster mother cat, and then going on to be adopted by a loving family in Karachi. 

“Pixel (formerly Lily) came to us at just eight weeks and immediately made herself at home, on our shoulders. She’s tiny in size but has all the attitude of a tigress roaming her territory. Her favourite past times include napping on her human’s lap and massacring jharoos. Literally the clingiest and most loving kitten ever, it’s hard to believe a time when she was abandoned and left for the worst. The love that rescues give is everything!” 

The note above by Pixel’s family goes to show our efforts to find homes for rescued and abandoned companion animals did not go in vain. 

We published and distributed the book ‘Animals in Islam‘ by Imam Masri to create awareness about animal rights, in collaboration with the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and Engineers and Scientists for Animal Rights (ESAR). People showed a great interest in learning about this topic and appreciated our efforts to make the book widely available free of cost. 

In support of the efforts of Indus Hospital’s Rabies Free Pakistan project to make our cities safer for both humans and animals, we entered into a digital partnership with them. We helped create awareness about the implementation of humane methods of vaccinating, neutering and spaying dogs to control the stray dog population and eradicate rabies from Pakistan by 2030.

Team Rabies Free Pakistan is proud to announce the achievement of another milestone in our journey towards a safe, rabies-free society!

We are entering into a digital association with Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to work towards the common goal of animal welfare and peaceful co-existence between all living beings who we share this planet with.

We aim to continue the implementation of humane methods of vaccinating, neutering and spaying dogs to control the stray dog population and eradicate rabies from Pakistan by 2030. We are delighted to have PAWS on board with us as our digital partner so we can collectively elevate our reach for a BIGGER and more LASTING impact.

Rabies Free Pakistan
A seashell on Karachi’s Seaview beach.

Some of our most fun activities of the past year were nature walks and beach cleaning at Seaview to create awareness about the importance of keeping our urban environment clean. We handpicked the litter, while highlighting how mechanical cleaning of the strandline is destroying the delicate beach ecosystem. Machine-led cleaning on Seaview’s species rich strandline not only creates noise and air pollution, but compacts the sand, thus harming fragile marine creatures’ habitat. Strandlines harbour biodiversity that are a food source for shorebirds like curlews and seagulls.

Back in 2017, we took Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), Defence Housing Authority (DHA), Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and Karachi Water and Sewarage Board (KWSB) to court in a public interest litigation for the dumping of untreated raw sewage into the sea. We were co-petitioners along with WWF Pakistan and Shehri-CBE in the Sindh High Court for a constitutional petition regarding the harming of the environment of the city by the respondents. As of December 2021, the said respondents are yet to file their comments in court.

A sewage nala at Seaview beach as seen on September 23, 2017.

The petition highlighted amongst other issues, the discharge of effluent on Seaview beach at Chunky Monkey and McDonald’s, which infringes the fundamental rights of citizens to a clean environment and exposes them to risk of diseases and medical conditions. The discharge also gravely affects the marine life and disturbs the natural ecological balance of the coast. The case is ongoing, and the next hearing is on February 10, 2022.

Karachi Zoo: A prison for animals.

In 2021, we continued to advocate for justice for captive animals in zoos throughout Pakistan. Zoos have a dark history showcasing man’s dominion over wild animals from exotic lands. In this modern day and age, with its dwindling biodiversity, shrinking habitats and a climate crisis, our focus should be on nature-led ecological restoration. Our advocacy focused on keeping our wildlife wild and free to exhibit their natural behaviours in the habitats where they belong, and not confined to a life of misery in zoos.

In particular we highlighted the plight of Suzi and Bablu, two bears at Islamabad zoo that were later shifted to a sanctuary in Jordan by an international NGO. We are pleased our voice made a difference in drawing the attention of fellow animal welfare activists and relevant authorities when Bablu was found injured with a gaping wound on his foot back in 2019.

A big animal welfare win for Pakistan was the successful sending of Kaavan, the 35 year old Asian elephant in Islamabad, to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia. Since 2015 we had been communicating with the authorities in Islamabad to show some mercy and retire Kaavan to a sanctuary abroad. We are proud of being part of the efforts of the local and international community in making this dream come true of finally showing some compassion to a suffering animal in captivity. We are especially grateful to Islamabad High Court Advocate Owais Awan for winning the case for Kaavan’s freedom, to Honourable Justice Athar Minallah for his landmark judgement, and to Free The Wild and Four Paws International for their expertise and efforts to provide veterinary care, transport and sanctuary to Kaavan. Free Kaavan, Help Welfare Organisation and Friends of Islamabad Zoo played a pivotal role in this win.

We also highlighted the plight of the four African elephants held in captivity in Karachi Zoo and the Karachi Safari Park. All of them were caught from the wild in Tanzania and smuggled to Pakistan in 2009 amidst much controversy. 

In March of 2021, Advocate Owais Awan and Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) filed a constitutional petition in Sindh High Court against Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) for negligent mistreatment of Karachi elephants. Petition no. 2170/2021 filed through barrister Salahuddin Ahmed called for an independent health assessment of the elephants by veterinarians specialising in elephant care.

The Sindh High Court appointed Dr. Frank Goritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin, to assess the health of the elephants. A detailed veterinary health assessment of all four elephants was submitted by a team of national and international veterinarians at the Sindh High Court on December 22, 2021. The next hearing is scheduled for January 13, 2022.

International veterinarians from Four PAWS and Leibniz Institute inspect an elephant at the Karachi Zoo in Pakistan. Nov 2021.

The team, led by Dr. Amir Khalil of @fourpawsint and Dr. Frank Goeritz of @IZWberlin, examined the elephants under standing sedation on November 28/29, 2021. Their report has recommendations of immediate and long term actions needed for the welfare of the elephants. Madhubala, NoorJehan, Malika and Sonu need medical intervention for their foot and dental issues, as well as species appropriate housing. Changes in enclosure design, & animal training are mandatory for a ‘behavioural enrichment program’ to ensure their good health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile, we have been working to ban elephant imports to Pakistan by moving court on two occasions, once in 2019 and then again in 2021.

In December 2019, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society and Shehri-CBE filed an application before the Lahore High Court to become a party to the case regarding the import of two elephants from Namibia to Pakistan. Earlier that year, the Court was approached by a citizen with a petition seeking the import of elephants to the Lahore Zoo in the name of the right to leisure. PAWS and Shehri-CBE seeked to challenge the orders of Mr. Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti directing the Ministry of Climate Change to issue an NOC allowing the Lahore Zoo to import two elephants from Namibia. According to international media reports of the time, the Pakistani government sent an application for ten elephants to the Namibian’s ministry of environment, which after reviewing the application, cancelled the export permit it had earlier issued. 

“There is an international backlash against the keeping of elephants in captivity. Animal rights activists in Pakistan do not want the Pakistani government to engage in the unethical practice of capturing wild animals from their natural habitats and caging them for entertainment. There is no conservation value in bringing in the wildlife of other countries and putting them in solitary isolation in our zoos. Just go see the state of the five elephants currently in captivity in Pakistan”, says Mahera Omar, co-founder Pakistan Animal Welfare Society.

Elephants live in large social groups, are highly intelligent, use tools for common goals and are capable of empathy. Females stay with their mothers for life. They roam up to 18 to 30 miles a day in the wild, foraging for food and water. Such exercise and freedom to make their own decisions is necessary for their mental and physical well-being.
Baby elephants undergo a great deal of emotional trauma when separated from their families. Their suffering in captivity is well documented in zoos across the world. Over years of confinement, their distress turns into zoochosis, characterised by repetitive head swaying and rocking. Poor nutrition, no exercise, chaining and solitary isolation takes its toll and considerably shortens their life in captivity. 

In September 2021, we filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court seeking a regulation/ban on elephant import to Pakistan. Chief Justice Athar Minallah passed an order that contained the following:

This Court has unambiguously acknowledged and held that animal beings have natural rights and that they cannot be subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering. It has been held that captivity of animal beings by depriving them from their natural habitats and keeping them in an environment that does not meet their behavioral, social and physiological needs amount to violation of their natural rights and subjection to unnecessary pain and suffering. The animal beings cannot be deprived from their natural habitats for the purpose of human entertainment.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah

As a result of our petition, the Secretary, Ministry of Climate Change was directed to ‘submit a detailed report, inter alia, explaining how exotic and endangered animal species are being imported and allowed to be caged by private citizens in conditions which do not meet their requirements.’

The Chairman, Federal Board of Revenue was directed to submit ‘a detailed report, inter alia, explaining under what authority of law exotic and endangered animal species are being allowed to be imported.’ The court proceedings are ongoing to date.

We pledge to continue our efforts to be a watchdog for animals and the environment, and to create compassion amongst Pakistanis through advocacy and creating educational resource materials for schoolchildren. You can support our work by visiting our website to learn about ways in which you can contribute and get involved in making a difference for the animals.

Thank you. Happy holidays, and season’s greetings!

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