Islamabad zoo lions die in tragic transfer
Islamabad Zoo will be transformed into a wildlife conservation centre. Image Credit: Friends of Islamabad Zoo

Islamabad: With Islamabad Zoo finally closed down and most of the animals shifted to different sanctuaries and wildlife parks where they have begun a new life, the vacant 82-acres zoo premises will now be transformed into a wildlife conservation centre.

Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) officials have announced to convert the Marghazar Zoo Islamabad into a state-of-the-art Margallah Wildlife Conservation Centre in light of the Islamabad High Court’s landmark judgment related to the welfare of animals and the government’s policy to protect environment and wildlife species under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s clean and green program.

First of its kind facility

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, said in a video message, that the wildlife facility has been approved by IWMB during its December 8 meeting presided by IWMB Chairperson Rina Saeed Khan. “It will be a first of its kind facility in Pakistan for education, research and conservation purposes” Aslam said. The officials say that they have arranged the funding to develop a standard facility and will soon engage the best consultants to build a home for local wildlife species to be kept in open enclosures.

Located in the foothills of Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP), the conservation centre will include wildlife sanctuaries, a vet hospital, rescue and trauma centre for indigenous species and research on the flora and fauna of MHNP, Amin Aslam shared. Due to its close proximity with the national park, the area is a natural habitat for wildlife species, which will be re-designed to fulfill national commitments regarding animal welfare and protection, he said.

The planned rehabilitation centre will be staffed with well-qualified and trained management, veterinary and wildlife specialists to provide strong management with scientific operations based around the concept of animal well-being and health care, according to details shared by IWMB. The rescue and rehabilitation of the injured and abandoned wild animals after which they will released back into their natural habitats, is also part of the project.

The news received a mixed reaction as some Islamabad residents welcomed the initiative and said that “It would help nurture a love for animals” in the society and promote a more humane vision towards animal care across Pakistan. However, some animal lovers have criticized the aspect of entertaining the public. “If the facility is being set up for conservation purposes, then the sole focus should be animal welfare and not public entertainment,” said Salma Khan, an Islamabad-based teacher.

The last bears

Two Himalayan bears, Suzie and Bubloo, are the last animals remaining at the now closed Islamabad Zoo, after elephant Kaavan was flown to a sanctuary in Cambodia last week. Animal welfare organization Four Paws International experts who played a major role in Kaavan’s safe relocation have returned to Islamabad to relocate the bears to a Jordan sanctuary run by Princess Alia Foundation.

But they were “surprised by a disappointing announcement” at the very last moment that “Pakistan’s ministry of climate change cancelled the export permit of the bears for unknown reason”. Islamabad High Court has issued an urgent order regarding the relocation of the two bears. During the court hearing, IWMB officials argued that Pakistan’s endangered animals should stay in the country and that capacity-building and training are needed to look after the native wildlife.