Subh-e-Nau Magazine

Zoological Gardens turn into Death Traps

Zoos across Pakistan are in shambles because they have strayed from their fundamental purpose of protecting and nurturing animals who are otherwise threatened in the open environment.    

The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln said, “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of the whole human being”. The recent incidents of animal abuse have sparked anger among the public. A donkey was allegedly abused by political party workers who brutally attacked the poor animal after writing their opponent’s name on his body. Another critically injured donkey was also found in Karachi. Both victims were luckily rescued by the volunteers of a humanist animal welfare organization. It is government’s responsibility to make sure the wellbeing of animals. However, deteriorating conditions of the state-run zoos in Pakistan indicate that they are least bothered about the animal welfare.
The wildlife department imported several giraffes from South Africa a few months ago. The world tallest mammals were supposed to be kept in zoological gardens of the different cities. Unfortunately, nine of these African giraffes died in Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan and Peshawar zoos shortly after arrival. It is pertinent to mention they were bought for 19.9 Million Pakistani Rupees. The zoo administration claimed that these giraffes were not in good health when they arrived in Pakistan. A male guanaco has died from intense heat at Lahore Zoo in June as well. The animal was imported from South America in 9 Million Rupees, while a Bengal tiger also died earlier in March of a deadly blood disease. All of these incidents are avoidable if proper management , monitoring and care is made available in our zoos.
Shocking pictures of African lions from Karachi Zoo also emerged in July. The inmate cats are suffering from a fungal skin infection and living a miserable life. Peshawar Zoo is no different; the administration has revealed that at least 30 animals including 3 rare snow leopards have been died in the zoo, according to a British newspaper story published earlier in July 2018.
Islamabad, the federal Capital of Pakistan also has a Zoological garden at the foot of the Margalla Hills. Marghazar Zoo infamously known for the elephant Kavaan’s chaining is in the news again, this time for a bear that recently died due to an intestinal tumor. The bear was kept alone in a very small enclosure which could have caused his death. As many as 15 animals including zebras, lions, and ostrich have perished in Islamabad Zoo during the last few years.

Key reasons for a zoological garden becoming a death trap 

While the main purpose of zoos is protection and nurturing of animals, our facilities have become torture prisons and their lives largely depend on the apathetic staff who manage it. We have recently visited Marghazar Zoo and Lohi Bhair Safari Park to get a clear picture of these wildlife prisons. We found both places unsuitable for wildlife to live in.  Here is the list of potential reasons behind the worsening conditions of zoological gardens in Pakistan.
Mismanagement and Negligence: The government employees are well-known for their negligence and those working at the zoological gardens are no exception. The directors/supervisors rarely inspect the animal enclosures, and sanitation workers, zookeepers and veterinary physicians do not fulfill their job responsibilities, which adds misery to already stressed zoo inmates. The animals are forced to live in unhygienic cells, they’re not vaccinated on time and do not receive proper medical treatment they need.
Understaffed and ill-equipped Zoological Gardens: There are only 2 veterinary physicians and 3 para-veterinary workers for the entire Karachi zoo which is home to 850 wild animals. The zookeepers and physicians appointed at zoological gardens are not properly trained and well equipped to deal with wild animals. They lack quarantine facilities which are needed to limit disease outbreak. There is no concept of treating mentally stressed animals in Pakistan. The animals not only feel physical pain but they also get stressed like humans. Emotional suffering puts them at risk of fatal diseases because it badly affects their immune systems.
No climate control or air-conditioning:  Non-native animals imported from other countries or even relocated from different parts of Pakistan struggle to survive in extreme weather. In Islamabad, daytime temperature reaches 40°C in June and the Capital city has also experienced freezing nights in January when temperature drops below 0°C. Without climate control, the animals are likely to get sick and die because it is simply too hot or too cold for them to survive in an unforgiving environment. The recent death of a guanaco in Lahore zoo is linked to heat stroke. He had been brought from colder region of South America where temperature stays below 30°C most of the times. Similarly, animals from warmer regions can’t survive in winters without space heating.
Undersized Enclosures: They are undersized and certainly not suitable for larger animals like big cats, elephants and giraffes in most of the zoos in Pakistan. Let us have a look at international standard enclosure sizes for different animals:

Species Name
Enclosure Size
(Square Meters)
Number of animals to be housed
Monkeys; baboon, Lemur etc.
African Elephant
Squirrel monkey
Exotic Pheasants
Small aviary birds
Flying Bird
Source: Central Zoo Authority (Ministry of Environment & Forests, India)
A monkey was kept in a tiny cage and an African lion was locked alone in an enclosure which is not bigger than a standard living room, i.e. less than 50 square meters at Islamabad zoo.
Irresponsible visitors: Some irresponsible people enjoy teasing animals. They yell, bang on the fence and throw harmful things into animal enclosures. During our visit to Marghazar zoo, we saw a group of young men were trying to wake up a sleeping lion by making noise and banging plastic bottles against the steel fence. Although it is clearly written on the notice board that one must not tease the animals but the zoo security does not patrol the premises to enforce the rules. The situation was even worse at Lohi Bhair Safari Park where we were unable to spot a single security guard throughout our visit. A few workers were found sleeping in a cabin and there was nobody to protect the animals at the zoo, they call it ‘Safari Park’.

Lack of Zoo Act/Policy in Pakistan

In April 2015, a judge of American Supreme Court ordered to free 2 captive chimpanzees from research centers stating that they are very intelligent animals and should be granted human rights. The decision was overturned later but Justice Barbara Jaffe who passed the ruling still believes that chimpanzees should be treated more humanely because they are considered to be the closest living relatives of humans. In this regard, “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1890” has been recently reviewed earlier this year.
They have raised the minimum fine from 50 Rupees to 10,000 Rupees and maximum fine for more severe offense have been raised to 300,000 Rupees. The amended act, if effectively enforced could be useful only to prevent animal abuse but there’re no rules and regulations for wildlife kept in zoos. India had passed “Recognition of Zoo Rules, 2009” 9 years ago but we still don’t have a zoo act or policy in Pakistan. They also have detailed guidelines for zoo keeping e.g. enclosure size, dimensions and other facilities as per international standards. In the absence of appropriate legislation, one cannot file a law suit against zoo administration for maltreating the animals and keeping them in undersized enclosures.
In summary, we need to implement existing laws for saving animals in our zoos, along with addressing key issues regarding the quality of their upkeep, maintenance and treatment of these innocent beings.

Should Animals Be Kept in Zoological Gardens?

It is a never ending debate; we asked the citizens their opinion about keeping the animals in zoological gardens. Although most of them are against the idea of keeping them in confined spaces, yet few are allowing it for some good reasons.
Hina Nashat Hassan says, “All the physical advantages in the world (which don’t actually exist in Pakistani zoos) cannot negate the psychological trauma these helpless creatures suffer for the amusement of cruel human beings. Wild animals don’t belong in cages, they belong in their natural habitats and if they cannot be provided them in reserves then the least we can do is to leave them alone; let nature take care of itself without humanity encroaching on it”.
Omer Sulehri says, “Zoos are cruel especially in poor countries like us. I hate the concept of a zoo. But well those chimpanzees make them big money”.
Owais Iqbal Khan, a 26 years old environmental researcher says, “In my opinion, a wide range of changes should be made in Pakistani zoos. We can adopt from China how well they treat animals under captivity. Proper psychological treatment and top notch facilities for animals should be provided in order to make animals adapt to zoo life styles. Pakistan should try to establish more National park oriented zones in order to maximize the tourism to intrigue researchers and let the animals have natural preserved environment”.
20 year old Hira Roohani is a student of Environmental Sciences, she says, “The zoos are quite good to save animals, but it depends upon the life style we are offering to them. We should try our best to make that place a natural habitat for them and promote their natural behavior towards Environment, the behavior of authorities with animals in zoos should be of great concern because we are keeping animals in cages instead we should go for more national parks where they can have artificial ecosystem and this will definitely effect their life in good way, as one should be treated according to its nature in which it is born.”
However, animal rights activist Ehtisham Khan sees things differently, he says, “Freedom has no price, even if it would have all the advantages of the world!”

Zoo Facts: Did you know?

  • Average life expectancy of a zoo-born African elephant is 17 years where the same elephant can live up to 56 years in natural habitat which is 3 times longer.
  • In 2013, Costa Rica decided to close all zoological gardens to become the world’s first ‘Zoo-Free’ country but the plan was postponed for following 10 years.
  • In 2014, 700 million people visited zoos worldwide
  • Nearly 10,000 aquatic animals at Audubon Aquarium of New Orléans (USA) died as employees forced to leave during Hurricane Katrina.
  • In 2010, a study by IUCN revealed that conservation breeding in zoos and aquariums played a role in the recovery of 28% of the endangered species.
 Writers: Sultan Kiani & Prof. Farrukh Chishtie

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What is in your tool shed?

Life of a gardener becomes easier if she has the right tools to work with.  If you select your tools carefully and look after them, they will last a lifetime.    

TWhen we enter a garden store we are usually overwhelmed by the endless selection of dazzling tools that we sometimes end up buying because the advertisement seems so convincing. What if I tell you that second hand or used tools are sometimes better than the new sparkling ones? For instance, bright new forks and spades are good but the ones with blades and prongs honed by soil are perfect! Be aware of buying tools that you do not need. Here is my list of essential tools for working with soil.

Tools for digging

One of the most essential tools for working with the soil is definitely a spade. Sooner or later we all need to dig a hole in to the ground or to mix soil. This very handy tool may become difficult to use if you do not have the right size. Spades come in three sizes.
• Standard digging spade: 11.5 *7.5 inch
• Medium Spade: 10 *6.5
• Border Spade: 9 * 5.5 inch
Select the one that is most comfortable to use. The shaft should be smooth and without any splinters. The handles are on different shapes as well. T, D or YD shape may be available. You can select the one that seems easier to hold.
Fork is better tool for digging than spade when it comes to heavy or stony soils. It is also used to move compost or manure. Fork also comes in different sizes and dimensions are almost same as of spade.
The potato fork has flattened prongs to avoid damage to the young potatoes. Pick a one that is comfortable to work with and is reasonably priced.

Tools for Levelling & Cleaning

Be it levelling the soil or cleaning up dry leaves in a garden, rake is very useful. Do not use it like a fork and work on hard soils with it. If you want to break soil, then use the back side of the rake.
Make sure the handle is smooth and sprinter-free if it is wooden. The ones made of plastic are light and generally easier to use but as less likely to bring stones to the surface.
If you like a weed-free garden then the only tool that you will enjoy working with is a Dutch-Hoe. It feels so satisfying to watch a hoe smooth out earth between the rows of a vegetable patch. Use it every week or regularly. The trick is to hold it at an angle which makes it dig deeply.

Tools for Cutting and Pruning

From pruning young branches to cutting flowers, a good pair of secateurs will help you for a long time. It is worth investing in good secateurs if your garden needs it. If the stems or branches are thicker than your fingers then do not use these to cut them instead use the secateurs with large handle and tougher blades called loppers.
Shears come in handy for doing many tasks in a garden whether it is for cutting a hedge, shaping up a plant or slicing up tufts of grass. Buy the one that is most comfortable to grip and use. Rub the blades with sand paper after use. This will keep it clean.
Care for your tools
Tools that are taken care of last a lifetime. Try to get in to the habit of cleaning up the mud or sand by scraping it off after use. Rub oil on the metal parts of each tool. The hoe and the edges of the spade can be sharpened up occasionally to help them perform well. Store tools in a dry place where rust will not cause problems. If you invest in buying the best quality tools once, you can keep using them for a very long time by taking care of your tools.
Writer: Zahra Ali


5 Safe Organic Pesticides to fight against Garden Pests 

Pests can wreck your garden and produce. Here are natural pesticides which can counter these dangers.     

Monsoon is here in full swing in Pakistan. The rainy season is good for flower, fruit and vegetable plants but it also brings a lot of harmful insects. Pest attacks can destroy your home garden if you do not act quickly. Synthetic pesticide spray can effectively kill all pests but they are also hazardous to the environment and human health. Commercial pesticides are highly toxic to human and other mammals, birds, bees and garden friendly bugs. Luckily, we have some green and safe alternative options available in nature. Here’s the list of 5 eco-friendly pesticides you can easily prepare at home.

1. Neem Oil Spray

Indian Lilac, more commonly known as ‘Neem Tree’ is very useful herb found in Indian subcontinent. Neem is best known for its anti-bacterial properties and it can also be used as a natural pesticide with minimum side effects. Here is how to make a natural Neem insecticide spray at home:
  • Mix 20ml of concentrated organic Neem oil and 2.5 ml (half teaspoon) of liquid soap (try to use organic soap or dishwashing liquid if it is not available) in 2 litres of warm water.
  • Stir it slowly to make a perfect solution
  • Add the solution into a spray bottle and use it on affected leaves
Neem oil contains over 50 natural insecticides; it can kill or repel different types of harmful insects.
Note: Do not store the mixture, use it immediately after preparation. Neem oil is moderately toxic to fish and other aquatic animals. Please do not use it near aquarium.

2. Crystal salt solution

This is very simple yet effective pesticide if your garden is infested with spider mite. Just mix 30g (2 tablespoons) of Himalayan Crystal Salt into 4 litres of warm water and spray the solution on affected plants.

3. Eucalyptus Oil

Some fruit trees attract bees, wasps and hornets. Eucalyptus oil has diversity of uses; it can also be used as an insect repellent, for both indoor and outdoor plants. Just sprinkle a few oil drops where the insects are found. They will run and never come back because insects hate eucalyptus oil.

4. Chilli Pepper Spray

Chilli pepper can also be used to repel plant bugs. You can either use fresh green chilli or red chilli powder. To prepare pesticide chilli spray from powder, mix 1 tbsp of chilli powder with 1 litre of water and few drops of dishwashing liquid soap. Or in case you are preparing it from fresh peppers; blend 150g of green chilli with 250ml of water. Add 1 litre of water in concentrated mixture and bring to a boil. Let it cool down, filter out the chilli residue using a tea strainer, add few drops of dishwashing liquid soap and it is ready to use. This solution can be used on the leaves of affected plants.
Watch out! Handle hot peppers with care, always wear gloves, face mask and safety glasses to protect your skin, eyes, nose, and mouth.

5. Tobacco Spray

This is very popular natural insecticide in villages where they smoke Hookah. Smoking tobacco is injurious to health, it kills people. Nonetheless, tobacco spray is a strong insecticide which can also kill pesky bugs. This is how to prepare insecticide tobacco spray at home:
  • Mix 150g of organic tobacco into 3 ½ litres of water
  • Leave the mixture overnight
  • After 24-hours, the solution should look light brown. Add some water if it looks darker.
You can pour the solution into a sprayer or fill up a watering can and spray/sprinkle it over infested plants. Organic tobacco spray is generally safe for most of the flower and vegetable plants but not suitable for the Solanaceae Family including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes etc.
One can argue that commercial pesticides are more “effective” than organic alternatives as they react fast and kill more insects but one should remember that they are also more expensive, toxic to human health, degrade environment and even bad for plants. On the other hand, organic pesticides are inexpensive, environment-friendly and safe for human health. It is true that organic pesticides kill fewer insects but they do repel them. These pesticides work in ‘defensive’ mode, they do protect the plants from pest attack and this is actually what we want!
Writer: Sultan Kiani
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