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Kabul zoo hoping to get snow leopard from India

Sally Walker, founder of Zoo Outreach. Photo Zoo Outreach

I see from a news report today Kabul Zoo officials are keen to restock their Zoo after severe damage over the last 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan. I wondered if staff and the facility are ready to take on the responsibility and safety and well being of new animals? Certainly for the troubled people of the country a well run and humane zoo would be a boost to confidence and education.

AFP reports Kabul zoo director, Aziz Gul Saqeb, who is leading a zoo team to India said “”Afghanistan wants an elephant, a leopard and a snow leopard from India because at present it does not have these animals.

Indian authorities have agreed to help us regarding the upkeep of the elephant once it is transported to Kabul,” he said after inspecting animals in a state-run zoo in the northern Indian town of Kanpur.

Snow leopard habitat in Afghanistan

Snow leopard photo captured in Afghanistan in 2009 by WCS.

But is the Zoo ready to house new animals like a snow leopard? Sally Walker, a wildlife and zoo conservationist and founder of the Zoo Outreach Organisation recently visited Kabul Zoo and reported on her efforts and those of zoos in the west, USAID and Wildlife Conservation Society to help with education of local staff and rehabilitation of the zoo facilities. According to Sally’s report improvements have been made, so perhaps the time has come for a few new animals to be given a home there.

Importantly the Zoo is educating its visitors – adults and school kids alike, about animal treatment and conservation, as sadly there’s been a history of animal taunting in the past. With the support of other agencies in Asia and the rest of the world, it would be wonderful to see the benefits that a good zoo can bring to the people of a country. A professionally run zoo could improve conservation of Afghan wildlife as well. Snow leopards are highly endangered in Afghanistan’s snow leopard habitat and the zoo could play an active part in educating the youth of the country to help protect the cats.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Sally Walker December 6, 2010, 8:18 pm

    Well Hello !
    A wrong notion has been created by (the AFP) article about the purpose of visit of Aziz and his colleagues from Kabul Zoo. They were invited to India and Nepal only for the purpose of training in which they participated in Nepal and then for a tour (again for purpose of training) of good zoos nearby Delhi which is their place of entry and departure from Kabul. In the article that is cited by me I have gone to some trouble to praise all efforts of the staff of the Kabul Zoo, the Kabul Municipality of Kabul for their very hard work and would like also praise the NC Zoo and its many partners for raising funds to start the restoration of Kabul Zoo after its virtual destruction by war. Neither Aziz or his colleagues stated that they had come to collect animals … that was a presumption of the reporter who contributed the article. (As a former feature writer myself and an Editor of a zoo magazine, I know how tempting that can be). It has been embellished by other press and there is very little there which relates to the purpose of this very worthy two week project. So far as I know the administration and staff of the Kabul zoo are working hard to bring it up to a standard that would permit them to interact with zoos in the rest of the world as equals and thereby participate in some conservation activities (already they are immersed in conservation education as I described in the article), then, perhaps including obtaining other animals. I’d like to clarify, however, that zoos today (good zoos, at least) are very careful about obtaining from or sparing animals to other zoos. The organized zoo community (the good zoos) has thus far been very helpful to Kabul Zoo with funds to rebuild and for training. Aziz, himself, protested the claim stating (and this is a real quote from the man) “we are not ready!”. The Kabul Zoo staff are, however, in a whirlwind of activity to rebuild the zoo as a better zoo than ever. In its day, the Kabul Zoo was of international standard as a joint project of the Kabul University, some external professors and Kabulians. Time and particularly the war took its tool on the zoo but and it is now on a very positive course of action to restore itself even better than before and join the global zoo community as a conservation partner. The five persons who came (Aziz, Director, Amadhi, Advisor to Mayor of Kabul, Rohella, Director of Culture; Najib, Education Officer and Abdul, Veterinary Officer) are all very keen to have a zoo that all the zoos and ngos who have assisted them will also be proud of… that is their priority before they bring any animals. And by the way, no GOOD zoo today would ever bring a single elephant, snow leopard or leopard to their zoo. Good zoos make sure their animals are living in near natural conditions and the their welfare is fully looked after. They would have a collection plan carefully constructed to “fit” their zoo in terms of size and means. Zoos also highlight the native species of their country, of which there are many many fascinating creatures within Afghanistan itself. Bringing a herd animal like an elephant as a lone wolf (if you will!) would be considered a cruelty. As far as the cat species go, they don’t hang out in herds, but the same thing goes … a good zoo would make sure there is a mate for every animal so that when mating time comes, they can carry out their normal behaviour, or just for company. Good zoos today are very careful about breeding also, minding that the animals they put together as mates are not related genetically and also demographically similar so that, among other reasons, one won’t die of old age and leave a solitary lonely animal behind. Good zoos are complicated…. … Thanks for reading this far, if you did ! Apologies for running on about my favourite topic !
    Sally Walker

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