KARACHI: A pair of common chimpanzees confined to two small makeshift cages have been living in extremely filthy conditions for more than two weeks as work on their enclosure continued in the Safari Park, it emerged on Sunday.
A visit to the facility showed that the Safari Park administration had separated the chimps named Raju and Babli and kept them confined to two small makeshift cages made within their big enclosure for the past 17 days. This arrangement has been made to strengthen their enclosure they were earlier kept.
The animals appeared restless due to the noise being created by the mechanical and metal work and their restricted movement.
More shocking, however, was to see their small living spaces filled with their excreta and rotten fruit and also that they were deprived of the basic need to drink water at will; there was no water pot inside their cages.
Similar conditions existed in other cages where a few animals were kept.
“We have been hired to secure the enclosure by fixing thick iron grilles on the three sides and to make a roof so that animals could get shade,” a worker at the site told Dawn.
Over 400kg of iron had been used to strengthen the infrastructure and the work would just take another day to complete, he added.
With the addition of another grille, the enclosure secured with a net of three metal sheets was presenting a look of a prison cell for a hardened criminal.
“It doesn’t seem animal-friendly at all. When you look at the enclosure, you develop a feeling of fear rather than love, which ought to be the message one should get at a facility meant to educate the public about animals and their habitat,” said a girl visitor.
Besides, animals shouldn’t be in cages at a Safari any way, she added.
Another visitor said: “The fortified enclosure should have an environment close to their habitat, for instance, growing a few trees inside is not such a bad idea.”
The visitors expressed surprise over the absence of any guide at the facility where animals were kept without providing adequate information about the specific species kept there.
“The identification boards fixed at cages do not provide details about the source from where the animal has been acquired, its age and name. Wrong boards are also attached, for instance cranes are kept in a cage carrying an identification board of peafowl,” a college student visiting the Safari said.
There was also concern over plying of buses for a visit to the area where animals were kept in the open. Soundless vehicles should be introduced with a guide that could educate visitors on animals, they said.
Visitors were disappointed to see that there was no golden tabby tiger in the Safari, though a board with the animal’s picture was displayed in the park.
No inquiry into chimps ‘donation’
It is worth recalling that the pair of chimps was accepted in ‘donation’ by the Safari Park administration over a year ago.
The administration, according to sources, took the animals without seeking information about the conservation status of the species and looking into the donor’s credentials.
The Safari director was not available to comment.
The park administration failed to give a satisfactory reply when they were asked about the global sensitivities attached to the trade of chimpanzees while the then administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) that ran both Safari Park and Karachi zoo, responded by saying that he might return the animals to the ‘donor’.
However, even after a year the administration neither returned the animals, nor instituted an inquiry to look into the credentials of the ‘donor’.
Sources said that the pair of common chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) were reportedly handed over to the Safari Park by a businessman. Both species of chimpanzee, the common chimpanzee and the bonobo, are listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
They are also listed in the Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Flora and Fauna, which means trade in these species is prohibited except in cases when the purpose is pure scientific research and education.
Import permits for such species could only be issued to the government-run facilities for wild animals and that, too, required an export permit from the country from where the animals were being imported and an import permit from the country which would receive them.
The sources further said that no licence had been issued for the import of chimpanzees in the country in a decade.