Islamabad’s only zoo shuts after last animals moved


ISLAMABAD – The only zoo in Islamabad — which drew international condemnation for its treatment of lonely elephant Kaavan — closed on Wednesday after its final occupants were relocated abroad.

Two Himalayan bears named Bubloo and Suzie were the last to leave the Islamabad facility, almost three weeks after the country’s only Asian elephant was flown to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.

“The Islamabad zoo is now completely closed for both public and officials,” Saleem Shaikh, a spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of climate change told AFP.

“Both the bears will be flown to a sanctuary in Jordan.”

Shaikh said the move was arranged with the help of Four Paws International — the same group that spearheaded the relocation of Kaavan whose plight was championed by singer and Oscar-winning American actress Cher.

She flew to Pakistan to see the elephant’s departure, and then to Cambodia to watch him arrive.

The ailing health of Kaavan, an overweight, 35-year-old bull, highlighted the woeful state of Islamabad’s zoo, where conditions were so bad that the Islamabad High Court judge in May ordered all animals to be moved.

Two lions died during their relocation when zookeepers attempted to pry them from their pen by setting ablaze piles of hay. An ostrich also died in the move.

Islamabad Zoo was established in 1978 on 10 hectares of land as a home for indigenous species. Authorities now plan to expand it as a wildlife conservation centre.

With little legislation to safeguard animal welfare, zoos across Pakistan are notorious for their poor conditions. In 2018, some 30 animals died within months of a new zoo opening in the northwestern city of Peshawar, including three snow leopard cubs.

Earlier this week, the IHC observed that the “bears’ natural habitat was the high altitude plateau of Deosai National Park in the Himalayas”. “It was indeed inhumane to have deprived them of living in their natural habitat, merely for the entertainment of humans.”

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah termed the zoo a ‘dungeon for animals’, and said a zoo, no matter how well equipped, is no less than a concentration camp for living beings.

They were subjected to unimaginable pain and there is no justification for it as the bears’ behaviour was unnatural while imprisoned, he added.

He said it is time to end imprisonment of sentient animals in cages at zoos and let balance be restored so they could live with dignity in their respective natural habitats and enjoy their natural rights.