The Sindh High Court has ordered Karachi Metropolitan Corporation to make suitable arrangements to move Ranoo, a Syrian brown bear cub, to an alternative space at the Karachi Zoo which has more space and a more "natural" setting.
The Karachi zoo administration landed in hot waters after a video started circulating on social media that showed a bear cub being kept in unfavourable conditions at the Karachi zoo.
A petition was filed by Mashal Khan and others seeking orders for the zoo’s administration to keep Ranoo in its natural habitat. The petitioners argued Ranoo needed special attention for its survival at the zoo, saying the bear has been forcibly separated from its parents, which amounts to cruelty because the animal is still too young to survive without them.
They said the severely hot Karachi weather is very different from the cub’s natural habitat. Syrian brown bears can only survive in a cold atmosphere and stay healthy in a habitat of snow, forests, grasslands and meadows of mountainous regions.
Due to a lack of such an environment, brown bears have gone extinct in countries like Syria and the neighbouring region. The petitioners requested the court to order the zoo’s administration to immediately transfer the cub to Skardu, where it can be reunited with its family in its natural habitat.
The court was also asked to ensure proper maintenance of hygiene, living conditions and health care of all the other animals at the Karachi zoo.
The petitioners also sought the formation of a committee comprising the animal welfare community and zoo experts who can conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the zoo and liveable conditions of the animals.
The committee can later submit recommendations in accordance with applicable international zoo standards for implementation so proper management and care of animals at the city’s zoo can be ensured.
The petitioners’ counsel, Mohsin Shahwani, drew the court’s attention to the report pertaining to the zoo prepared by a team of experts, who recommend that the cub be shifted to an adjacent cage that has over 500% more space and a good natural setting.
Suggesting the cage will have to be completely overhauled with new fencing, extensive landscaping inside in all three dimensions, water supply and strong safety features, he said the cage can be overhauled and the cub be shifted to its new habitat.
The KMC’s counsel accorded his consent in the matter. The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Irfan Saadat Khan directed the KMC and the zoo administration to start the required procedure to implement the suggestions made in the report.
The court said that it is also expected from the zoo administration that they will make sure all the animals at the zoo are kept in a healthy and safe environment.
On the other hand, the KMC’s deputy director zoo had denied the petitioner’s claims. He also denied the allegation of cruelty, saying that the zoo’s administration had been providing all the required facilities to the animals, including diet, treatment, and management.
He claimed the bear in question was the property of a private breeding farm and research centre, and it was received through an animal exchange programme in March 2017.
He pointed out that the question of forcible separation from parents did not arise because there was nothing wrong with the bear’s health, showing that it had fully acclimatised to the weather of Karachi.
He also claimed the animal was an adult, it had been living comfortably at the zoo since March 15, 2017, and its weight was between 100 and 110 kilogrammes.