The order is temporary until final decision taken
Rano, a 20-year-old Syrian brown bear, has been living a solitary life trapped in a 25-foot wide Victorian “grotto” pit at the Karachi zoo for the last three years.
On Wednesday, the Sindh High Court ordered that she be relocated to another cage 500 times bigger.
Justice Irfan Saadat Khan told Sindh’s advocate general, representing the case for the zoo and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, that Rano should be immediately relocated to the cage adjacent to hers.
The orders were directed to Karachi zoo’s senior director and KMC. The instructions were passed on an interim basis until a final decision is taken.
“It is expected from the zoo authorities that all animals are kept in a healthy and safe environment,” Justice Khan added.
The order was a recommendation that was presented to the court by a five-member team that it had formed to evaluate the condition of the bear and the zoo.
It said that the new cage is spread over 2,100 square feet and, most importantly, is ground level, unlike the underground pit Rano is living in. The new cage requires a bit of renovation such as better fencing.
If you happen to visit the zoo, you will find Rano heavily panting and roaming in circles which experts say is a sign of distress.
According to Society for Protection of Animal Rights President Zain Mustafa, the new cage will give Rano respite from psychological and emotional trauma. “A ground-level cage means she will be able to see other animals and will have earth under her feet.”
It is at least better than looking at those grey cement walls that provide no stimulation for her brain, he told SAMAA Digital, adding that Rano will be able to play and move around and have a comparatively less lonely life until a final decision is taken.
A bear of Rano’s species lives approximately to 25 years of age. Animal rights activists have been campaigning that the bear should be given freedom in the few years she has left.
A total of 38 people signed a petition filed in the Sindh High Court by Barrister Mohsin Shahwani on October 1, 2020, against keeping Rano at the Karachi Zoo.
The petitioners said that Rano is being kept in a very small enclosure, away from her family. “The bear is not fed on time, neither are its other needs looked out for,” Shahwani said.
The petitioner demanded that the bear be sent back to Skardu where its other family members are, adding that she is not native to Karachi and the city’s climate is not suitable for it.
“The condition of the Karachi Zoo is very bad and the place has become hazardous for animals living there,” Shahwani said, pointing out that the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation doesn’t have the funds or skilled workers to take care of animals.
He demanded that a two-member committee be formed to look into the condition of the zoo and suggest improvements in it. It will also make sure that animals are kept according to their natural habitat requirements.
“It is very important that these animals are tended to carefully. Even our religion doesn’t allow us to treat animals in a bad way,” the petitioner added.
In the next hearing of the case on October 5, the court instructed the KMC to install an air cooler or air conditioner inside Rano’s enclosure at the zoo within 48 hours.
The court expressed anger over the appointment of just one doctor for all animals and has summoned the zoo’s budget and details of employees at the next hearing. It has also issued a notice to the secretary of the wildlife department.
Taking the petitioners’ suggestion, the court also formed a committee to look into the condition of the zoo and suggest improvements. It will also make sure that animals are kept according to their natural habitat requirements.