‘Concentration camps for living beings’: Pakistan high court condemns continued existence of zoos

A Pakistani high court justice has condemned zoos as “concentration camps for living beings” in a judgement regarding the treatment of two bears.

The Islamabad High Court last week summoned government and local environmental officials who reversed a decision to transfer brown bears Suzie and Bubloo from the notorious Marghazar zoo to a sanctuary in Jordan.

Instead, the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board and the Ministry of Climate Change said the retired dancing bears would be moved to a national park in Rawalpindi.

But on Monday, Chief Justice Athar Minallah was told authorities would allow Suzie and Bubloo to go to global animal welfare group Four Paws’ sanctuary in Jordan. They are due to move later this week.

In his written judgement, Justice Minallah praised the decision to allow their transfer to Jordan, concluding that while the bears could have been cared for in Pakistan, facilities in Rawalpindi were not yet ready to do so.

But the judge was scathing of both Suzie and Bubloo’s mistreatment and of humanity’s disregard for its fellow animals broadly.  

“The natural habitat of Suzie and Bubloo, the two incarcerated brown bears, was the high altitude plateau of Deosai National Park in the Himalayas,” he said.

“It was indeed inhumane to have deprived them of living in their natural habitat merely for the entertainment of the human species. They have remained caged in the Marghazar zoo for more than a decade.  

“A zoo, no matter how well equipped, is no less than a concentration camp for living beings.”

The bears, Justice Minallah said, were “imprisoned without having committed a crime” and had been “subjected to unimaginable pain and suffering”.  

“There was no justification for this cruel treatment other than to entertain the human species,” he added.

‘World’s loneliest elephant’ ready to fly to new sanctuary

Marghazar zoo, which has been ordered to shut down, was also the 35-year home of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant”, who made international headlines last month when he joined other elephants at his new home in a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.

All that now remain are a deer, a monkey and Suzie and Bubaloo, whose teeth had all been removed by their previous owners to stop them from biting customers and the owners.  

“Kaavan, Suzie and Bubloo will always be ambassadors of the people of Pakistan, a reminder that the human race can go extinct if the animal species and their rights are not protected,” Justice Minallah continued.  

“They will serve as symbols of the empathy and respect that the animal species deserve from humans and a reminder that protecting their rights and their welfare is of paramount importance.”

“They will remain the messengers of the people of Pakistan for the rest of humanity that it is time to end imprisoning sentient animal species in cages in a zoo and to restore the balance of nature by letting them live with dignity in their respective natural habitats so that they may enjoy their natural rights.”

Justice Minallah concluded by wishing Suzie and Bubloo a safe journey and adding that, “being magnanimous by nature”, he hoped the bears “would forgive the human race for subjecting them to unimaginable pain and suffering”.

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