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Curtain falls on Islamabad zoo after Kaavan and now dancing bears Bubloo and Suzie leave

Curtain falls on Islamabad zoo after Kaavan and now dancing bears Bubloo and Suzie leave

Compared to the limited and stressful life in Islamabad zoo, each bear will have 5,000 square kilometres wilderness to roam.
17 Dec, 2020

As if losing Kaavan was not embarrassing enough, Four Paws have taken two Himalayan brown bears to Jordan where they will be properly taken care of.

Following the animals’ departure, the only wildlife expert, Dr Z.B. Mirza, quit the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), citing old age. The 85-year old biodiversity expert is the second member to quit IWMB after World Wildlife Fund (WWF) withdrew its membership in protest when the two lions died at Marghazar Zoo this summer.

Z.B. Mirza maintained that sending off the bears was shameful. “We endorsed international propaganda that Pakistanis are incompetent and are cruel to animals,” he said.

Since long, conservationists argued that while zoos advocated conservation, saved endangered species and educated public, Islamabad zoo offered none. Animals were often displayed in small, cramped conditions until the Islamabad High Court took notice and decided to end cruelty to animals there.

In May, the court ordered it to be shut down and Kaavan, the two bears and 400 other animals relocated to better sanctuaries.

“The bears had to leave because Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments declined to adopt them after the court got involved. They feared the wrath of the judge, who was taking personal interest, had anything happened to the bears which were keeping poor health,” a senior official in the climate change ministry said. Among many who declined to help the bears was the only bear sanctuary in Balkasar, home to nearly 70 rescued bears. It also stayed away from the controversy.

The official said there was little the ministry could do after taking charge of the zoo from the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad in July. The court had already ordered the zoo to be shut down in May.

“Even though the ministry came in with the intention to fix the zoo, it was too late. The case became bitter after the two lions died,” the senior official said.

Dr Amir Khalil of Four Paws and IWMB personnel take a transport cage to the bears enclosure at Marghazar Zoo. — White Star
Dr Amir Khalil of Four Paws and IWMB personnel take a transport cage to the bears enclosure at Marghazar Zoo. — White Star

Another conservationist with the ministry, requesting not to be named, explained that the government could not bear pressure from the media as well as animal rights activists at home and abroad who had been demanding on social media and through emails to let the brown bears go.

“The IWMB was no longer in the mood to face the Islamabad High Court. The relocation of the elephant and the bears was taking attention away from other matters,” the official told Dawn.

He said letting the bears go was not a matter of ego, but what was best for them and for now it was a happy ending to a sad story.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam committed to take legal action against individuals to had shown cruelty to the animals and reduced the zoo to a level where it had to be closed.

But, IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan said: “We don’t want to be stuck in the past; we want to move forward. PC-I and funding for a sanctuary and the animal conservation centre have been approved and work will begin on the plan next month. Once the sanctuary is completed and the bears have recovered, they will likely be returned.”

Special attention

The ailing bears got special attention after the global animal welfare organisation, Four Paws, arrived in August. They were fed fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables. While the golden shine in their furry coats seemed to have returned after the special care, they continued to show signs of distress and aggression, seen by their swaying from side to side, which is caused by prolonged captivity in a poor environment.

A Himalayan brown bear named 'Bubloo' is seen inside its enclosure prior to transport it to a sanctuary in Jordan, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on December 16. — AFP
A Himalayan brown bear named 'Bubloo' is seen inside its enclosure prior to transport it to a sanctuary in Jordan, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on December 16. — AFP

While Bubloo, the male bear, has severe infection in one of its canines, and which will be extracted soon after landing, the female bear, Suzie, cannot chew, said Dr Amir Khalil, who heads the Four Paws team in Islamabad.

Bubloo and Suzie were dancing bears confiscated from street performers and their teeth had been pulled out. They were four years old when they arrived at Islamabad zoo.

On Wednesday, it took Dr Amir Khalil one-and-a-half hours to dart the bears, shift them into transport cages and load them on to the truck. The bears will leave for Jordan early Thursday morning.

“We can’t wait to see the bears walk into their new species appropriate home in Jordan,” Dr Khalil added.

Compared to the limited and stressful life in Islamabad zoo, each bear will have 5,000 square kilometres wilderness to roam. There are already 10 bears in the sanctuary called Al Ma’Wa for Nature and Wildlife. Located 1,200 metres above sea level, the sanctuary is run in collaboration with the Princess Alia Foundation. Just like Kaavan, the bears were also gotten acquainted with their transport cages over the past few weeks.

“Pakistan took a lead in raising awareness about animal welfare,” Dr Amir Khalil said, pointing out that nearly 70 animals in Marghazar Zoo needed attention and proper care before they were also shifted.

“There is a lot of pain across the world. There are animals in distress in many developed countries; the US, Europe and Africa. But Kaavan became the light in the darkness and inspired people on how to offer better places to animals and for this we also appreciate the government for its support,” he added.

The shifting of the bears was kept away from media spotlight. With the last two animals gone, Islamabad zoo stands officially closed.


Originally published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020

Comments

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Ali Sabir Dec 17, 2020 01:26pm
Kaavan has now lost weight, and made friends with another elephant in Cambodia.
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Mukhtiar Ali Dec 17, 2020 01:42pm
That’s correct, but it’s also bitter fact that due to corruption, poor people don’t get their rights, animals are far behind.
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Chrís Dăn Dec 17, 2020 01:46pm
We are passing through a very tough transit period between past 40 years of institutionalized plunderring & unbelievable nepotism and a future potentially comperatively much better than dark ages of past 40 years. Everything will come back once we are togather and patient to bring this changed future. We will have it.
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joe Dec 17, 2020 02:19pm
Z.B. Mirza maintained that sending off the bears was shameful. “We endorsed international propaganda that Pakistanis are incompetent and are cruel to animals,” he said."" When a child is made to see an animal bring sacrificed and joy associated with it ,child for sure will not have that kind of love and affection for animals. A child who sees animals being loved ,cared for will surely grow up being loving and kind to animals.
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Qaiser Dec 17, 2020 03:36pm
Ghabrana nahin hai.....jaanwar bahir say khud Pakistan aayain gay ...rehnay k liyay....
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Solomon The King Dec 17, 2020 03:37pm
a good place to lure in Pakistani politicians
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Babar Hussain Dec 17, 2020 03:40pm
We demonstrated our inability to manage the zoo by completely ignoring the needs and resources required to maintain the zoo.
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Coolheart Dec 17, 2020 03:57pm
Pakistan, be the first country in the World to ban zoos.
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R S Chakravarti Dec 17, 2020 04:08pm
There are zoos nearby in India. They could have helped.
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Laila Dec 17, 2020 05:00pm
We can't even protect and maintain our people. What chance do our animals have? They are better off where they are valued and get proper care. Respect our animal kingdom. Don't support caged animals or animals for entertainment ( streets, circus, TV etc) Understand our survival depends on this planet and the animal kingdom.
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Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Dec 17, 2020 05:01pm
Let all captive animals be freed from Zoos, parks and similar places in the world to their original and natural habitat as in case of Kaavan, the elephant liberated under the aegis of the P.T.I. administration in Islamabad, Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
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Abdali Dec 17, 2020 05:36pm
This country is unsafe for anything living.
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WAB Dec 17, 2020 05:59pm
@Chrís Dăn I'm not that hopeful. Given that the state institutions are keeping people on the payroll to comment and say things that nobody believes and care about. And the irony is that they can't even spell 'together' correctly.
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Sulemani Kida Dec 17, 2020 06:16pm
We are now free to build a new Baharia town
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NYS Dec 17, 2020 06:55pm
Now you can see animals species in google 3d animation while you are not able to take them to Murgzar zoo in Islamabad Happy ending to a sad story albeit
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Sarah Khan Dec 17, 2020 06:57pm
Good - under IK we have done many great things
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Fazal Rehman Dec 17, 2020 08:31pm
Islamabad has many zoos well funded and all animals in side those zoos are well looked after!!! There was no need for this real zoo
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Kaavan The Happiest elephant Dec 17, 2020 09:48pm
We are happy that Kaavan is no more lonely and has 3 females on his side. Every zoo should feel embarrassment for illegally keeping animals in captivity. Why just target Pakistan?
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Fazal Rehman Dec 17, 2020 10:41pm
Islamabad has many zoos well funded and inside animals are well looked after so there was no need for this real zoo
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Yes Dec 17, 2020 10:48pm
The bears were dancing because of anxiety and stress!
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Wolf Dec 18, 2020 02:20am
We cannot feed our population one time a day proper meal how we are going to feed animals. Corruption has rendered us poor backward is every respect.
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Wolf Dec 18, 2020 02:22am
@Sulemani Kida zoo to become cash cow for politicians.
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T Dec 18, 2020 04:44am
Hope PTI does not sell off the zoo land.
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Observer Dec 18, 2020 08:35am
@Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad I agree with you for the first time. I never visit zoo or enclosures where they hold animals for fun or uses animals for the enjoyment.
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ravi vancouver Dec 18, 2020 08:47am
@Chrís Dăn Even after 20 Years all failures ard incompetence will be blamed on corrupt and dacoits of opposition. Pakistani awam is very simple and innocent so every political party takes them for granted.
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Mubashir Munir Dec 18, 2020 11:01am
Our own people are humiliating the nation can they not arrange shifting the elephant and bear to Lahore or Karachi zoo when we are bearing loss of billions of rupees in steel mills PIA Pakistan Railways this is because no one ask for the loss of such a big plunder and we the high mi nisters dont care for the public They in this way put bad name to our country
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adi Dec 18, 2020 06:06pm
even the animals cant live in pakistan.
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Manzar Ali Khan Baqai Dec 18, 2020 06:47pm
Shame for present and previous so called people governments of Islami Jumurihya Pakistan. The so called peoples Government cannot take care of it s Animals What care they take of their people. They should also send their Human resource abroad till it make aplace for ordinary people to live in. Sugar prices raised from PRs, 50/- Kg. Same stand for Wheat rice and pulses, more then 2.1/2 yrs. passed. for the present looters of the poor Islami Jumuriyha Pakistan. Now it is Armed Forces turn.
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nikhil Dec 19, 2020 05:50am
Pakistan has done a good job. There is now question of loosing prestige
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