As cliché as it sounds, I visited the Lahore zoo on Eid this year. Upon hearing this, you’d probably say ‘who goes to the zoo on Eid, that’s major childish stuff?’ and might even go on to say ‘what a brown thing to do’, but this is exactly what happens when cousins who’re visiting from Karachi want to- it’s the polite thing to do or let’s just say the only option you have, in order to avoid death glares by your parents.
On the 25th of June this year, we headed out like the typical ‘Lahori lot’ snacks on hand and an undeniable excitement of visiting the zoo. Although initially, I wasn’t too warm on the idea of this trip, though anticipation began building soon as it had been almost ten years ago that I had last visited as a kid. As much as I was looking forward to this little adventure, the moment I stepped through the ticket booth and laid my eyes on the very first animal, instant regret took over me. Therefore, I embark on this personal rather depressing account to ask you in the end, ‘why do people continue to visit the zoo?’
Three words that sum up my account are sadly far from what zoo’s exhibit but unfortunately ‘thirst, hunger and torture’ are the ones I chose. From the monkeys to the coyote to the cheetah to the birds to the lone rhinoceros to the lions to tiger to the fox to the turtle to the chimpanzee to the puma to the deer to the goats to the bear to the ibex to the peacocks – all were the visual definition of helpless prisoners who had been caged and put on public display as part of their punishment.
All animals at first glance were difficult to spot as they were covered in so much dirt that you realize their cages haven’t been cleaned for years! The lions slept as though they were drugged or anesthetized but in truth, they were exhausted because of the heat and the poorly maintained environment they were kept in. The Rhinoceros was the visualization of a lonely person who’d given up. I say this credited to how it carried itself, almost dragging its sagged dusty body it succumbed to the interior chambers of its home.
The Puma, in particular, made me internally cry and I state this without even a hint of exaggeration. It was violently shrieking as it continued to move to and fro in its cage and angry growls escaped its mouth like an insane man chained for the longest time. In the world where it is the symbol for a famed brand, the puma held as a prisoner in the Lahore zoo had certainly fallen on the bitter side of reality. Whereas, on the outside families and kids were pointing and snickering at it, clearly enjoying the entire ordeal. It was beyond my understanding to what sort of morbid concept of entertainment were those families so amused about.
Gradually moving forward, we came across a large fenced area with hardly any shade, occupied by the Deer. There I found another particular animal I felt extreme remorse for, such that the more I sympathized the less it felt. A tiny little Bambi it was, just like the one in the animated Disney film. The whole area occupied by the Deer was scorching hot under the burning sun and in a little corner happened to be an involuntary leak in a water pipe which made the surrounding area slightly wet and cool. A mother deer found it to be the suitable and only spot for her little Bambi who appeared to be only a few days old. The offspring lay in that corner, and with feeble efforts and all the strength that it could muster, was trying to get its tongue to reach the leaking water. A tiny tongue would sneak out every few seconds for a few droplets of water.
It was after that moment that we decided to put an end to the trip and to our misery (but what of the animals?). We left the zoo cursing the management and vowing never to come back and for those who continue to visit, please don’t. Don’t keep filling their pockets when the animals are being treated as they are.
Reflecting over my own experience, and recalling the now vacant area in the zoo where the beloved elephant ‘Suzi’, who for so long had been the highlight of the Lahore Zoo once lived, is most surely in the best of places right now. As much as I don’t want to, I pray the same to happen for the rest of the animals – soon!