ISLAMABAD-Visitors gathered at the main entrance of the Marghazar Zoo on Saturday where officials had invited people to come and see a one-year-old black bear cub, liberated from a street performer and now being sent to Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.

“This bear cub was captured by a juggler from Margalla Hills who separated it from his mother, cut his teeth, nails and infected his eyes with acid,” a top official from climate change department narrated the story to the children.

He said that the wildlife department of the city and other activists won the case of the bear cub in court. Following the orders, now the cub will be sent to a sanctuary for rehabilitation, he added.

“Why this bear cub could not live here at the zoo?”  Seven-year-old Ahmed whispered to his elder sister, who ignored the question.

The Nation asked the same question to Vaqar Zakaria, Islamabad Wildlife Board Management member and a prominent activist working for decades to save the wildlife at Margalla Hills National Park.

“Because the conditions of this zoo are not satisfactory for this cub,” he replied.

Islamabad Zoo was established in 1978 near Daman-e-Koh for the refuge of wildlife existing at Margalla Hills. But, with its popularity Capital Development Authority (CDA) extended its scope and brought more animals.

Currently, the zoo has 95 animals of 15 species, 850 kinds of birds at the aviary section and 15 reptiles of three species.

Marghazar Zoo situated on 25 acres of land is home to all these wildlife species. However, their condition and facilities provided here depict that the animals are only the showpiece for visitors who come and entertain themselves.

Zoo officials had to chain Kaavan, an elephant whose loneliness after the death of his partner ‘Saheli’ led to deterioration of his mental health, However, it was unchained in the mid of the year after its confinement echoed in the Senate.

A zoo official while talking to The Nation on the condition of anonymity said that proper food and medicines were being provided to animals, adding that there was no other way to control Kaavan but to chain him.

“Elephants are chained even at zoos in Sri Lanka,” he added.

Unclean cages of bears, African lions, zebras, hog deer, monkeys, and blue bulls and ponds of turtles and alligators reflect the lack of interest of administration towards the maintenance of the zoo.

Zakaria said that the condition of animals and the facilities for them at the zoo were not satisfactory because there was no proper plan of the management.

He said PC-1 for the upgradation of the zoo was approved in 2007 but was not implemented.

“Only two or three cages were built after the project announcement,” he added.

He also said that a veterinary hospital and well-trained staff were required to maintain the standards of the zoo. Unavailability of such basic facilities leads to poor standards and ultimately animals suffer.

Non-availability of funds from the government has worsened the situation, Zakaria mentioned.

He further said that Islamabad wildlife department has worked for the arrangement of funds.

He said a plan would be formulated in the next six months, adding that the situation of the zoo and animals would improve in next two years.

Meanwhile, the official also said that allocation of funds for the zoo has always remained an issue.

“Meeting the international standards of zoo maintenance is out of question when there are no standards formulated,” he said.

Issues about animals’ health and their look after will remain until serious measures are taken to design it as a proper zoo according to the needs of the animals, the official said.

Zoos are judged following the ratio of breeding of animals but here we hear the saddening news of animals dying, Zakaria said. 

Unfortunately, we have made wild animals domesticated, he said. It is our responsibility to provide them best environment, he added.