Wednesday, 30 November, 2022
HomeGo To PakistanElections to auctions—lions are Pakistan's obsession. But without welfare concerns

Elections to auctions—lions are Pakistan’s obsession. But without welfare concerns

Lahore Zoo had to cancel a lion auction amid criticism from WWF and animal rights activists. It has put a big question mark on Pakistan’s animal welfare policy.

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New Delhi: After immense criticism and widespread condemnation from the World Wildlife Fund and various animal rights activists, Lahore Safari Zoo authorities have cancelled their infamous lion auction. Ironically, on 10 August, World Lion Day, authorities had announced that they would be auctioning off 12 lions to ‘save space’ in the midst of a cash crunch.

Pakistani media reported that the zoo would sell some of its captivity-bred African lions for a minimal amount of only PKR 1.5 lakh. Pakistanis are baffled at the fact that a buffalo appears to be more expensive than an African lion — the former costs anywhere between PKR 3.5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.

Pakistanis took to Twitter to express shock. Additionally, animal rights activists are charged up, expressing concern for the lions if they were to come into the care of private buyers. Putting price tags on wild animals has become Pakistan’s new norm.

Animal maltreatment in Pakistan 

The Lahore Safari Zoo’s lion auction has put a big question mark on Pakistan’s animal welfare policy. The country’s stance on animal rights remains precarious. In fact, Pakistani zoos have little oversight and are notorious for their maltreatment of animals. Kaavaan is a male Asian elephant that gained internet fame for being ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’. Kept in captivity in his little enclosure in Marghuzar Zoo, Kaavan had been in chains since 2000. The elephant had open wounds and developed zoochosis — a psychological problem associated with prolonged captivity. The case of Kaavan’s mismanagement and lack of proper care came to light, and the elephant was relocated to Cambodia.

Lahore Safari Zoo has a capacity to house 15 to 20 lions, but its current strength is 29. Lions and tigers have to take turns using the paddocks. And Pakistani zoos refuse to spend money to create new infrastructure for the feline species. Animal welfare is the last thing on Pakistan’s mind, which is struggling with its own economic woes.


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Pakistan’s obsession with feline animals

Pakistan’s fascination with lions is bordering on an unhealthy obsession. Keeping wild cats as pets is the new trend — a rather inhumane and oppressive practice to weed out a wild animal and put it in a city. But the lion is much more than just another fascinating wildlife species — it’s a part of Pakistani political pride too. A lion symbolises fierceness and ruthless power — an image that Pakistani politicians are desperate to cultivate.

In an outlandish incident, a PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) supporter brought out a real lion to campaign for Maryam Nawaz who was contesting the general elections from Lahore in 2018. Nawaz’s campaign had had an eccentric start. “I will run Maryam’s campaign and walk this lion every day in every corner of Lahore till the polling day,” he said.

Former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had notoriously used a white tiger as a poll mascot for the general elections back in 2013. The tiger later died due to prolonged heat exposure. The PML-N’s election symbol is the tiger, and Nawaz Sharif is referred to as the ‘sher’ of Pakistan.

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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