Islamabad: Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah in a case pertaining to the death of two lions of Islamabad Zoo has remarked sheer negligence and incompetence by the caretakers and officials of the wildlife department as well as the zoo leading to the tragedy that shocked animals lovers across the country.
The court took up the matter when a video clip went viral last week on social media in which the poorly-trained staff of the zoo and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) could be seen injuring the lions with a metal rod and setting their cage on fire in an attempt to shift them from one enclosure to another so that they could be moved from the zoo to a ‘secure’ place.
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The big cats, already weakened due to prolonged starvation and the humid conditions, could not bear the torture, smoke and fire and died of suffocation and other injuries.
While hearing the case Justice Minallah directed the IWMB and the Climate Change Ministry to complete the investigation into the wild animals’ death and fix responsibility and submit the report by August 11.
FIR against unidentified persons
To a query of the court, Secretary Ministry of Climate Change Naheed Durrani said a First Information Report (FIR) has been lodged against the ‘unidentified’ persons.
The judge taking exception to her reply asked if she meant to say an FIR was registered against Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Presently, the climate change minister’s portfolio is with Prime Minister Imran Khan and he is the Minister-In Charge of the ministry
Those who are responsible for the death of the animals are also the ones investigating the matter, remarked Justice Minallah.
Justice Minallah said everyone was merely interested in taking over the zoo’s administrative control but nobody was bothered about the animals and the adverse conditions in which they were living.
No concrete steps are taken and the stakeholders are busy in playing politics, he said.
Not only incompetence of the relevant departments is reflected in this episode, flaws in governance are also starkly visible, the judge further remarked.
Pakistan’s image tarnished
The judge asked the Climate Change Ministry and the wildlife department officials not to tarnish the name of the country as “the entire world witnessed our cruel attitude towards animals,” said the judge.
Animals at the zoo are being transferred to other zoos or private sanctuaries across the country following directions from the IHC to protect them from mismanagement.
However, the process has proven to be deadly for some wild animals.
So far, as many as 10 animals at the zoo have died over the past month during attempts to transfer them to sanctuaries due to the alleged incompetence and negligence of the caretakers.
In May this year the IHC had directed to shift all animals from Islamabad Zoo to sanctuaries, local or abroad, observing the zoo had turned out to be a death zone for them.