Animal rights activist Ayesha Chundrigar asks Sindh government to end zoo culture after death of white lion
Animal rights activist Ayesha Chundrigar — founder of the animal rescue organisation ACF — does not think highly of zoos and recently met Sindh Local Government Minister Nasir Shah to request an end to "zoo culture" in an effort to curb animal neglect. She asked for sanctuaries to be made or for the animals to be shifted abroad.
Chundrigar's meeting came a day after news of the death of a rare white lion at Karachi Zoo spread on social media. The animal's death was caused by pulmonary tuberculosis and pneumonia, according to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). Many netizens and celebrities were outraged by the lion's death, calling for an end to zoos in Pakistan on social media.
The ACF founder took to Instagram to share the news of her meeting with Shah. "In my meeting today with Nasir Shah, Minister for Local Government, I requested him to please end the zoo culture and either move all the animals to sanctuaries abroad or to make wildlife sanctuaries where animals run wild and free," she wrote.
She also shared her feelings when it comes to caging animals in zoos. "I’ve never understood the fascination with imprisoning animals. We have all seen them on TV, living life in their natural habitats. Just something like The Lion King or National Geographic. Why can’t we just let it be that way? Why do we have to hungrily trap them as they unassumingly go about their business, bring them to polluted urban choke-holds and lock them behind iron bars? What’s the fascination in seeing a distressed lion up close who is completely uncomfortable in his surroundings?" she asked.
Chundrigar shared her experience of visiting a zoo for the time, recalling how disturbed it made her feel as a young child. "I picked up on this when I first went to the zoo at five and I saw an elephant angrily throwing food on people," she wrote. "She wanted everyone to stop leering at her. And I screamed and asked my mum to leave because it wasn’t nice that people were teasing her. And then they started teasing me too. Then I saw young boys laughing while throwing soda bottles and wrappers in the lion’s cage to get a rise out of him.
"I couldn’t articulate my feelings at the time but I felt what the animals felt. Suffocated. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to leave. Go home. And guess what? I had the luxury to leave and go home while they spent day after day, year after year, life becoming a dizzy time-lapse of dullness punctuated by bouts of frustration."
She also shed light on what motivates her to work for animal welfare. "Because I don’t get humans. I don’t understand our sick need to control and tame the wild, like being wild is a bad thing. I hate how selfish we are, how bloody arrogant and how we can make everything about ourselves.
"I don’t know what happened to this lion. All I know is that we have a culture that thrives on caging wild hearts and in breaking free spirits. Teach your kids to appreciate the raw magnificence of animals and you would see a different society. That’s how important they are in our lives. I know this because when circumstances plunged me into darkness when I was a child, they saved mine and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying my hardest to save theirs."
Reports that the food supplies for animals at the Karachi Zoo had been halted over lack of payment by the KMC were also shared on social media before the animal's death. Outrage grew after a video of a starving lion, allegedly at the Karachi Zoo, went viral.
The KMC denied such reports and called them "propaganda", saying that the zoo had feed for a week for the animals.
The ACF is an organisation that has made a name for itself in Karachi for its animal welfare efforts. Among various other campaigns, they are engaged in efforts to save the city's stray dogs from being culled by either vaccinating or neutering them.