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KMC, zoo administration told to shift bear cub to new habitat

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday ordered the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the administration of the Karachi Zoological Gardens to start the required procedure to shift a cub of the Syrian brown bear species to its new habitat at the zoo.

The direction came on a petition filed by Mashal Khan and others seeking orders for the zoo’s administration to keep the cub named Ranoo in its natural habitat. They said Ranoo requires special attention for its survival at the zoo.

They claimed the bear has been forcibly separated from its parents, which amounts to cruelty because the animal is still too young to survive without its parents, and that too in the severely hot Karachi weather that is very different from the cub’s natural habitat.

They said Syrian brown bears can only survive in a cold atmosphere and stay healthy in a habitat of snow, forests, grasslands and meadows of mountainous regions, adding that due to a lack of such an environment, brown bears have gone extinct in countries like Syria and the neighbouring region.

They requested that the court order the zoo’s administration to immediately transfer the cub to Skardu, where it can be reunited with its family in its natural habitat, and to ensure proper maintenance of hygiene, living conditions and health care of all the other animals at the Karachi zoo.

They also sought the forming of a committee comprising animal welfare community and zoo experts holding appropriate qualifications to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the zoo and submit recommendations in accordance with applicable international zoo standards for implementation so proper management and care of animals at the city’s zoo can be ensured.

The petitioners’ counsel Mohsin Shahwani invited the court’s attention to the report pertaining to the zoo prepared by a team of experts, who recommend that the cub be shifted to an adjacent cage that has over 500 per cent more space and a good natural setting.

He said the report suggests that the cage will have to be completely overhauled with new fencing, extensive landscaping inside in all three dimensions, water supply and strong safety features.

He also said that in view of such recommendations as interim measures, the cage can be overhauled and the cub be shifted to its new habitat. The KMC’s counsel accorded his consent in the matter.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan directed the KMC and the zoo administration to start the required procedure to implement the suggestions made in the report.

The court said that it is also expected from the zoo administration that they will make sure all the animals at the zoo are kept in a healthy and safe environment. In his comments filed earlier, the KMC’s deputy director zoo had denied the petitioner’s claims. He claimed the bear in question was the property of a private breeding farm and research centre, and it was received through an animal exchange programme in March 2017.

He also claimed the animal was an adult, it had been living comfortably at the zoo since March 15, 2017, and its weight was between 100 and 110 kilograms. He pointed out that the question of forcible separation from parents did not arise because there was nothing wrong with the bear’s health, showing that it had fully acclimatised to the weather of Karachi.

He also denied the allegation of cruelty, saying that the zoo’s administration had been providing all the required facilities to the animals, including diet, treatment and management.

Several citizens had criticized the Karachi zoo’s administration after a video started circulating on social media that showed a bear cub being kept in unfavourable conditions at the zoo, following which the authorities were asked to shift the animal to a favourable and suitable environment.

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