Browsing through an array of notifications that hits my screen every few minutes or so, I was recently stirred by an ongoing debate on one forum. The topic in question was about the efficacy of the Karachi zoo and whether it should even exist or not. Keeping for and against points towards one side, quite a case can be made for both aspects.
Perhaps one of the things that struck me the most was how many people there were right! If I existed in my bubble I would undoubtedly say that having a zoo in Karachi is a useless venture and be done with it. Yet, my bubble was broken long ago. Agreed, that in the case of the zoo it is quite painful to see the animals slumbering in smelly cages, especially the ever sleeping lion, yet it could be taken as a personal opinion. I am completely against the concept of keeping any wild or pet creature in a cage. It is against nature, demeans God’s creations and is tantamount to cruelty which no religion or civil society teaches. Reminds me of St Mary’s asylum in Bethlehem and the commotion it caused in history because there humans were being treated in the same way as animals. Think for a minute of our own selves in those cages and it is enough to make one shudder.
At the same time, I’ve come to realize that change cannot be pushed forward impulsively. One needs to remove a brick and place another in its place so the infrastructure doesn’t collapse. The zoo wasn’t made in a day and the jobs even though being understaffed are provided for and cater to several families. At the same time, there is a case for using the zoo as a ready made lab for the creation of a healthy genetic pool for endangered species.
On the other hand, conservationists feel that the main reason the zoo has survived so far as an open place in the heart of the city is because we have a valid excuse ‘there are animals in it and it’s a recreational space’. Without that excuse there is little between a bullet and a bullet to stop land grabbers. And we do need that open space as a breathing space in the middle of the city. Further while we of the car and facebook world bubble have our dens and haunts, many women living in the locality look forward to the day when it’s a ladies only day and they can easily spend their time there. On special occasions, ladies are not allowed inside and yes, there may be several pickpockets. I was once told that on such days men rule the place and sadly consider it great fun to poke animals to make them react. Brutal and callous yes, but the more we shut down and avoid such instances instead of re-educating, we are not giving anything to society. The concepts will not change.
The need of the day is to plan carefully and listen to different views as well along the way. There may be more than just animals at stake here. Food for thought… There should be adequate provision of open places for entertainment for masses rather than the elitist population only.
One of my earliest memories is of seeing finally all those wonderful animals that I had before then seen only in books as a five year old child. The wonderment and pleasure at the size and beauty of it all in that bright afternoon is a happy memory. So it is with others, photographers and nature lovers alike who go and spend time at the zoo on cloudy days and enjoy the open space. On good days it is still a great place to be. Long winding walks, greenery and the vast expanse of land make it an ideal picnic spot as well, especially for those who do not have the means to bear with the expense of carting their offspring to the beach and buying goodies for them there from the shops dotting the area. The convenience of the location as well as the economy of biying sweets and affordable snacks from vendors near the zoo cannot be undermined.
One suggestion of dealing with the knotty issue at hand is of converting the current facility into a focus on a petting zoo with pet animals in open spaces and trained staff to guide children how to handle such animals. Baby animals and pets may be better able to elicit responses of warmth than of poking and ridicule and change the concept of the zoo as many have it at present.
The problem with most petitions is that they communicate aggressive action and impulsivity – they denounce something and do not provide suitable alternatives. As a result many noteworthy causes fall flat as those in the Government feel they will face additional protests from a variety of people especially the employees if they listen to the voices of concern from civilian bodies. A shelter or petting zoo is a good alternative that would keep the space and the jobs intact, while getting rid of the abhorrent and expensive to maintain wildlife in cages concept with an always sleeping lion to go with it. He definitely needs to be out in the jungle where he belongs.
As for shutting down the zoo? Definitely NOT an option.
For a view of the improvements made in the zoo since its inception and to know more about the history, I recommend reading:
http://www.care2.com/news/member/285806679/540773 , http://www.ysapak.com/YSAforum/index.php?topic=4059.42 , http://www.groupin.pk/blog/karachi-zoo-garden-animals-timings-pictures-attractions-for-kids/