Experts call for citizen engagement to help protect zoos

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There is a need to rethink the fundamental approach toward the animals, zoos and wildlife conservation, where animals should not be treated as an object but as species with some basic rights like other species of the planet Earth. In order to protect the zoos and wildlife parks, there is a need of enhance civil engagement and educating the public about the rights and importance of the animals for biodiversity and ecosystem.

Experts during a seminar titled “The State of Zoos in Pakistan: Searching for Humanity”, organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) said citizen involvement will help resolve the issues of poor management of zoos where citizen liaison committees can be instrumental in reporting the miserable situation directly to the authorities.

Dr. Nadeem Omar Tarar, Executive Director, Center for Culture and Development said animals are part of human habitat and same humanity must be extended to all species on the planet Earth. He said, unfortunately, there is general denial of rights of the animals, where animals are being treated as an object. He termed the zoos as prisons where animals are being kept as innocent prisoners. Inefficiency of the management, poor governance structure and lack of accountability mechanism are largely responsible for the miserable state of zoos in the country, he added. He urged the need for educating the general public about the rights of the animals and civil engagement to help protect the zoos and Wildlife Park in the country through citizen liaison committees to report on malpractices and mismanagement.

Dr. Imran Khalid, Head Climate Change Unit and Research Fellow SDPI while highlighting the history and evolution of zoos along with best global practices said zoos can serve to educate us about the value of biodiversity amid extinction of species all over the world as a result of climatic changes. He said environmental degradation and extreme weather events in the form of heat-waves and droughts are only negatively impacting the humans but also other species including animals, which need to be protected. The state of zoos in Pakistan is questionable on many fronts including capacity gape, lack of skill human resources, poor infrastructure and lack of security, he lamented. He urged the authorities to take the responsibility of conserving the zoos and wildlife as per international biodiversity conventions.

Dr. Ejaz Ahmed, Biodiversity Specialist said it is unfortunate that the state of the zoos in the country deteriorated over time, but zoos and wildlife parks has the important role to play in conservation of extinct species. He said the need is to educate the public and especially the visitors about the importance of the animal conservation and biodiversity for the ecosystem. However, the authorities need to take care of the animals’ food, health and provide a recreational environment as per international standards.

Katie Sipra, Scientific Officer, Bio Science Department, Comsats University stressed the need of conservation of animals in zoos through animal management, research, recreation and educational programs. She said Zoos should be taken care by highly trained individuals who are passionate about their profession. Zoos and wildlife parks should be accredited and must meet the international standards which include living environments, social groupings, nutrition, enrichments, veterinary programs, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures and physical facilities, she added.

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