Citizens demand bear sanctuary for Rano

Concerned residents gathered for a silent art protest on World Animal Day against the captivity of Rano, the Himalayan brown bear at Karachi Zoo. Holding up banners and creating art in front of her barren cage, they demanded her immediate release to a bear sanctuary. 

Artists Bisma, Sara Khan Pathan and Ayesha in front of Rano’s cage at Karachi Zoo on Oct 4, 2023

“Rano does not belong in Karachi zoo. She is a Himalayan brown bear, a wildlife species native to Pakistan. Most likely snatched from the wild as a cub, she has spent her entire life in cruel captivity. She cannot bear it any longer. The only way to right all the wrongs done to her is to let her spend the rest of her life in a sanctuary.” 

Mahera Omar, co-founder, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

The national wildlife rehabilitation centre run by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) would be the ideal cool home for Rano. The other option is the bear sanctuary in Balkasar, Punjab under the Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC).

Artwork by Bisma Daim

The harsh effects of captivity on wild animals leads to zoochosis; repetitive stereotypic behaviours such as head bobbing, swaying, rocking, weaving, pacing, licking bars, over grooming and self mutilation. Rano too suffers from zoochosis. Unable to fulfil any of her species-specific needs that she otherwise would in the wild, she has been seen pacing relentlessly up and down the same side of her cage for years. 

Artwork by Ayesha Chandio

“She is frustrated in this completely inadequate cage that was built for her in 2020. Whoever designed it had absolutely no idea about the needs of a wild bear. As it is a bear from a cold climate has no business being held hostage in Karachi. It does not reflect well on the country to treat our wildlife in this manner. Instead of protecting natural habitats, the zoo has sentenced a beautiful wild animal to a life of utter misery.”

Mahera Omar, co-founder, Pakistan Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)
Art by Sara Khan Pathan
Artwork by Sara Khan Pathan

Rano was brought to Karachi zoo in 2017 along with an Asiatic black bear who has not been seen since 2020. They were both placed inside a Victorian era pit that earlier housed Emma the black bear who died in 2013. By the time Rano was alone in the pit, her plight caught the attention of citizens who filed a petition in the Sindh High Court. The zoo shifted Rano to the current cage after the court’s judgement.

Charcoal sketch by Hamza Abrar.
Charcoal sketch by Hamza Abrar.

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