Karachi: A major obstacle to upkeep of the Karachi Zoological Garden and for a long time was removed on Monday when the city’s commissioner, who also held additional charge of KMC administrator, approved award of financial powers to the administrations of both facilities.
The important decision was taken at a meeting of the zoo advisory committee held at the zoological garden.
The decision, sources said, had come in the backdrop of longstanding financial crisis the zoo and Safari administrations were facing in paying off dues of feed contractors who were threatening to suspend supplies.
Besides, the committee since its inception in December last year, was not able to take important decisions for the improvement of zoo and Safari due to lack of financial resources.
The sources said the committee had approached former administrator of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation several times and requested for some, if not all, financial powers to zoo and Safari but he had turned down the request.
According to senior KMC officials, it is the first time in the history of the zoo and Safari (two major government-run facilities for captive animals in the city) that their respective administrations have been given powers to keep and spend the income generated by them on the maintenance of facilities and wellbeing of animals.
Currently, the two facilities are generating revenues of about Rs3m and 1.2m, respectively, a month. Earlier, the entire income used to go into the KMC’s kitty and the administrations of both the facilities had to send a request to the administrator for any expenditure even if funds were urgently required for treatment of injured or ailing animals.
Set up by the name of Gandhi Garden in 1878, the zoo has been collecting an entry fee since 1955 while the Safari Park originally conceived as Greater Zoological and Botanical Garden was established in 1970.
“There will be two separate accounts for the zoo and Safari and their income will exclusively be spent on animal welfare and up-gradation of the facilities,” said Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui in his opening remarks at the meeting.
Singapore Zoo offer
Senior director culture, sports and recreation (CSR), Raza Abbas Rizvi, shared with participants of the meeting the experience of his team that had visited the Singapore Zoo over a month ago as part of government efforts to bring about a positive change at the facilities for captive animals.
He pointed out that one of the major reasons behind the success of Singapore Zoo was huge involvement of corporate sector, calling for a similar participation by private individuals and companies in the uplift of zoo and Safari.
“The Singapore Zoo doesn’t spend a single penny on the daily care of animals as all of them have been adopted either by individuals or companies. The facility earns about $31m annually while its yearly expenses stand at $11m,” he told the meeting.
The other factor that had helped the Singapore Zoo earn good reputation, Mr Rizvi said, was appointment of technical staff and long tenure awarded to them to continue their services. Sixty-percent of the animals at the Singapore Zoo were of Indian origin and many of them were in surplus, he said.
“But the zoo doesn’t sell its animals. It does exchange its surplus animals. They also offered us free two-week technical training for our zoo staff,” he said.
Giving his input, wildlife conservator Sindh Saeed Akhtar Baloch said that an important feature of reputable zoos was their investment in research. In this regard, he gave the example of San Diego Zoo, one of the biggest zoos in the world.
“They are running the most successful koala breeding programme outside of Australia, though the animal is not their native species,” he said.
At this point, the commissioner directed the director CSR to prepare a proposal to take advantage of the offer for free technical training at Singapore Zoo and announced setting up an animal support fund and a zoo research cell to be headed by Dr Kazim Hussain.
Representative of Karachi Chamber and Commerce and Industry, Faisal Mukthar, informed the meeting that no progress could be made in convincing business community to support initiatives aimed at uplifting facilities for captive animals.
He blamed the failure on the negative perceptions people generally had about the government-run facilities and said there was a dire need to launch campaigns to dispel such misconceptions.
“Unless the negative perception is reversed, people won’t come forward to support animal welfare schemes,” he said.
The meeting decided that members of the business community would be taken into confidence over the projects being launched at the zoo while foreign dignitaries would also be approached for assistance.
The meeting also decided to hold a zoo week from Sept 6 to 11 to improve public image of the facilities and expressed serious concern over lack of cooperation on part of the KMC veterinary department that had failed to supply meat from illegal slaughter to the two facilities on a daily basis.