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EDITORIAL: When you release a bird from the cage it doesn’t say ‘thank you’; it just flies away. The cage to the bird was prison where it was kept by force, and as no human would like to be in any prison the birds too want their freedom. And so is the case with all wild animals. In the company of humans they symbolize ecological stability. This planet Earth is as much their real estate as of humans. But that unfortunately is no more the case.

The humans have captured them, put them behind bars called zoos and derive pleasure from their presence in cages. And when the cages in the zoos get over-populated some of the animals are put on auction. On August 10 the World Lion Day, the authorities of Lahore zoo had planned to put on sale as many as 12 lions to “save space” and meet zoo’s growing expenses. But later on, the zoo management shelved the plan, as these lions were to be bought by private zoo-keepers where it believed the animals don’t get fair treatment.

Otherwise, there is no law to prohibit the possession of a wild imported animal. It is no more a concern of government authorities that animals are in prisons; its only concern is that privately-owned wildlife animals live in poor conditions. Of the 14 zoos in Pakistan, four are owned privately. Since keeping lions or tigers at home is a status symbol the sale/purchase of animal life is a roaring business in today’s Pakistan.

Love for wildlife and respect for its freedom in Pakistan is diminishing by the day. What to talk of letting the wildlife flourish in its own environments it is ferociously hunted, imprisoned and even sold out to foreign animal-hunters. The annual auction for visiting bustards and mountain goats is part of the government moves to earn foreign exchange, required for import of luxury items and delicious chocolate.

All of this must stop. It is heartening to note that concerned authorities are planning to impose a ban on keeping wildlife animals privately. “We are also planning for repartition wildlife animals to suitable countries for their rehabilitation,” says Head of Prime Minister of Pakistan’s Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi. But it is only a baby step towards ensuring peaceful existence of wildlife which is already under threat of extinction.

Let Pakistan take the gigantic step towards securing existence of wildlife by winding up the zoos and let their inhabitants move to game reserves and wildlife sanctuaries. It would be a greater fun to see the lion in its exclusive domain than in someone’s cage or prison.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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