Caged animals

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Little can be expected of municipalities in terms of respecting and looking after the wellbeing of animals in local zoos when the state of human wellbeing is assessed. When it comes to judging the moral and ethical standing of a society however, the care it provides to living beings without a voice to explicitly express their needs speaks volumes about it.

Zoos across Pakistan have reverberated animal rights violations for years. Most recently, the spotlight has been shined on frustrated chimpanzees at the Karachi Zoo, run by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.

According to the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, the two chimpanzees at the zoo in a solitary confinement-style arrangement are experiencing poor mental health, screaming in agitation. It is imperative that a voice of reason and concern from within the local government come forth and fight to change the plight of these creatures.

Chimpanzees are forest creatures, accustomed to having trees around with branches to swing off of and leaves to make sophisticated nests from. Their intelligence has been extensively studied and primatologists have concluded the large-brained mammal as well as its closely related cousins the gorilla, orangutan, and human are capable of higher-level learning such as language.

To reduce the chimpanzees at the zoo to a cage with concrete floors and metal bars and assume it requires no mental enrichment or naturalistic habitat is an insult to human beings as well, being closely related to the chimpanzee in terms of anatomy and emotional intelligence, according to science. Better advocacy is needed for the welfare of animals across the country.

The city government of Karachi plans to expand the zoo, acquire more animals, and increase cage sizes. This raises several concerns and questions. First, based on whose confidence is the zoo management adept enough to care for more species? Second, if there is a budget for improving and expanding the zoo, it should first be spent on proper training of staff and hiring skilled and experienced experts to care for the animals.

While zookeepers may offer years of experience, experience alone is insufficient to ensure the safety and wellbeing of animals. Modern science and veterinary medicine need to be incorporated.

A small but recent global outcry is against the very notion of zoos, which profit from holding animals captive and putting them on display. Instead of zoos, erecting animal sanctuaries and safe havens would be beneficial to our wildlife habitats and ensuring the wellbeing of our species in the long term. It would serve our municipalities well to consider this.

The list of suffering, endangered, and threatened species is long and includes the dear chimpanzees held captive at the Karachi Zoo. Increasing empathy within our desensitized citizenry is an area that needs rescuing and along with adopting friendlier policies in the way of animal rights, establishing such sanctuaries would not only provide a place of education for children and adults, but also allow them to take ownership of the wellbeing of graceful and intelligent animal co-inhabitants of our land.