The Himalayan brown bear at Islamabad Zoo is nursing an open wound on his foot. The thousands of visitors for whom the zoo keeps Pakistani wildlife captive now demand action to save his life, the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society has said in an open letter to the zoo posted to its website and shared with SAMAA Digital.
The open letter says:
The six-month-old bear cub that you probably bought from a wildlife smuggler is now eight years old, malnourished, suffering from mange and limping around his cemented enclosure with a gaping wound at least two weeks old. His sister, also wild-caught, has already died in your care.
The general public is wondering why you have an injured animal on display. Since you haven’t yet noticed the bear’s agony, we recommend the following treatment plan by a trained and experienced wildlife veterinarian. First, remove the bear immediately from public display.
Confine him to a squeeze cage for the treatment duration. Sedate using an appropriate and safe dose of anaesthesia. If he has maggots, inject Negasunt or any available appropriate medicine into his wound. Make sure the entire wound is filled.
After 5 to 10 minutes, inject more and more of this medicine till the time the last maggots stop appearing. Begin an antibiotic course. Use the human medicine Velosef as it is safe and reliable for bears. Begin multivitamins.
Spray choona (lime powder) around the squeeze cage to keep flies away. Keep the bear confined for several days till the time the wound closes and he recovers completely. Once the wound heals, begin treatment for mange. Soak him in Amitraz wash.
In addition, administer medicines for endo/ecto parasites twice a year. Ivomec is recommended and can be sourced by the zoo’s veterinary medicine supplier.
We hope that you are looking after his dietary needs, and keeping an eye on his protein, carbohydrate, fat, minerals and vitamins intake. We plead with you to only feed him milk for a while to aid in his recovery.
We hope you include lentils, corn, bonemeal, beef, chicken, fruit and vegetables, sugarcane and several different kinds of grains. Stale leftover roti (bread) is not a suitable diet and the result of that is visible to visitors who wonder why the bear looks like a complete mess.
While you focus on his health, don’t forget to provide him enrichment such as opportunities to swim in a natural pond, to forage for some of his food, to have access to plants and trees, to have the privilege of walking on a natural substrate and not cement.
In an ideal world, the bear would not have been stolen from the wild in the name of conservation and put on display for the (convoluted?) education of Pakistani citizens. He would not be showing signs of zoochosis and ill-health that captivity induces.
In an ideal world, the bear would be enjoying his freedom in one of Pakistan’s national parks. In the “Naya Pakistan” of Imran Khan, with his focus on eco-tourism and climate crisis, the government would educate the public about the importance of saving our biodiversity and natural heritage.
But since animals held captive like this brown bear make you a lot of money, the sacks of cash trickling up to the highest in the chain, and you will not rehabilitate him back into the wild or release to the national bear sanctuary, may we also recommend the following:
With more than 60% of the zoo’s 25 acres dedicated to zoo visitors, we recommend giving the bear access to an enclosure at least half an acre large, and letting him live the rest of his life in peace, dignity and good health in a sanctuary like environment.