Close down all the zoos
By Kamran Shafi
Published: May 3, 2012
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto firstname.lastname@example.org
For we do not deserve the poor things, the animal haters that we are. While one has long seen and felt the plight of these creatures in the Citadel of Islam, the death of young Saheli, the female Sri Lankan Asian elephant at Marghzar Zoo in Islamabad has really shaken one to the core.
Note that whilst Asian elephants live to an average age of 60-some years, Saheli is dead at just 22 of a sore foot! I ask you! And what has the great CDA done? Suspended her caretaker mahout, Mohammad, possibly the only one who really cared for the animal. News reports suggest that he was crying like a baby at Saheli’s death, intoning repeatedly through copious tears: “She was only one year old when she came into my care, only one year old”. Does nobody else at the zoo, Mohammad’s superiors, carry any of the blame for Saheli’s death? I suppose not, for this is the Land of the Pure where the axe always falls on the weakest, most powerless.
One has lived all one’s life in this country and has seen the progressive decline in animal care; and a rise in cruelty towards animals in direct tandem with the rise in jihadism and religious extremism. Walk down any street and you will see that the very first reaction of most people to a passing dog is to cast about looking for a stone, or brick, or stick to throw at the cur.
Go to any zoo and you will see people torment the animals, specially monkeys and apes, by screaming at them, making faces at them; in one case that I witnessed myself, actually prodding a leopard with sticks, which anecdote I must tell here in detail. It was at selfsame Marghzar Zoo where I was walking around several years ago on a bright and sunny winter morning.
What do I see but a bunch of Talibs (young madrassa kids, seven to 18 years old) poking the leopard with a long stick, through the bars of his cage, as he lay warming himself in the sun. It was fascinating to see the dignity with which the beautiful cat looked at his tormentors, as if to say, “My world is already taken away; what more can you awful people do to me?”
I saw red of course and looking around for a zoo worker shouted out to one to come open the gate of the cage so that these brave young men could go in and fight the leopard. The boys immediately desisted and ran away to another part of the zoo.
However, here we are talking about lay yahoos who would tease animals; what about zoo officials and veterinarians, the people actually in charge of zoos and the welfare of animals supposedly in their care? Stories are rife about the scant care that is taken in looking after the creatures. A giraffe died in Lahore zoo not too long ago because he had ingested a plastic bag, which had probably been thrown at him by a visiting yahoo.
Neither is any attention paid to inbreeding in the case of lions and tigers resulting in a shrinking gene pool that is producing sick and weak offspring. Inbreeding is widespread and is taken more as an exotic quality (as in White Tigers) rather than as a serious health problem. Indeed, one has seen tigers with such deformed features as are frightening to behold.
Here is an excerpt from a 2009 report Accumulation of Deleterious Mutations Due to Inbreeding in Tiger Populations by researchers Lauren Begamy and C S Criscuolo. “Biodiversity in a species is the amount of genetic variability within the species. Genetic diversity refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. The loss of genetic diversity within a population can be due to inbreeding within the species. Inbreeding can lead to an increase in homozygosity in the population and cause an excessive amount of deleterious mutations.
“Tigers are one of the most inbred animals in captivity. Tigers carry a recessive gene that can cause some offspring to be white. For the white colouring to show, the tigers must be inbred. The constant inbreeding can lead to mutations such as immune deficiency, scoliosis, cleft palates, mental impairments, strabismus, and early death. Inbreeding of the tigers leads to a loss of genetic variation within the species which can diminish the chances of evolving if necessary.
“Current research shows the genealogy of all white tigers can be traced back to the very first white tiger. It can be proven that every white tiger is related to one another. Other research proves that inbreeding is the major cause of mutations in the tiger population and hopefully further research will be done on other possible mutations that could occur within the species.”
So there you have it reader. Whilst, for example, we don’t know how many of our tigers have cleft palates that make mere living hellish, mental impairments can be seen in any zoo in Pakistan with the animals pacing up and down their tiny cages, sometimes biting their own tails off; bears moving their heads maniacally from side to side; and wolves and jackals running like possessed creatures from one end of their enclosures to the other, over and over again.
Close down all Pakistani zoos I say, and gift the animals to countries that care for, and love animals. We are yahoos; we don’t deserve the noblest of God’s creations.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, everyone and Charlie’s Aunt has given gratuitous advice to the new DG ISI. Here is my tuppence worth: Never again should your goons try and disrupt, say, a seminar to protest the genocide of, say, the Hazara people of Balochistan as they tried to do at the Islamabad Press Club on Saturday, April 28, 2012.
It was so apparent who they were; and who their director was; who actually piled the cameramen into his own car after their ‘surveillance’ was done! Not good.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2012.
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