Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kabul Zoo a Haven of Calm

Long time subscribers of the mail out version of Zoo News Digest will recall the fuss I made trying to draw attention to Kabul Zoo when the city was held by the Taliban. I offered to go in and do what I could but without cash it was not really a viable idea. In the end it did get sorted and with the generous support of the North Carolina Zoo.
The present zoo is much improved and continues along that road.  In the article below David Jones says "In the Muslim world especially, a place where women and children can gather safely as a family with or without their menfolk is important." This is something I have talked about before. Zoos are important not just for the recognisable reasons like Edutainment, Conservation and Research but because they are non religious, non political, non pornographic. Zoos are and should be all of these and Havens of Calm. - Peter

Kabul Zoo provides a haven -- for humans

Decades of war have ravaged the zoo in Afghanistan's capital. As it tries to rebuild with help from foreign groups, it still provides a crucial public space for women and children.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - At the Kabul Zoo, even the empty enclosures are a draw: They're quiet.

Off a busy street leading to the city's commercial center, the zoo is no longer the city's pride, but it does provide a refuge from the traffic, noise and chaos of the Afghan capital.

Parents bring children here to walk amid the tall trees and gaze at the animals -- even the empty enclosures. Women in pale blue burkas stroll the grounds.

"In the Muslim world especially, a place where women and children can gather safely as a family with or without their menfolk is important," said David Jones, director of the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, which is offering support to the zoo, on the banks of the winding Kabul River.

Built in 1967, the zoo, with research facilities and tourist attractions, was part of a push by Afghanistan to emerge as a modern state. But decades of war have ravaged the zoo.

The stories of neglect are legend: Soviet soldiers shooting the animals for sport. Taliban fighters using the zoo as a bivouac and killing some of the deer and rabbits for food. The Taliban command trying to close the zoo, saying nothing in the Koran sanctions the keeping of animals.

Two elephants and a zebra were reportedly killed in a gun fight between mujahedin factions. A mortar round destroyed the parrot exhibit.

Marjan, an aging lion who was the zoo's top attraction, was blinded in one eye by a grenade attack. He died in 2002. (The official cause was kidney and liver ailments, but people say his heart was broken by the zoo's sad decline.)


China donated two lions to replace Marjan. They spend their listless days in a weed-choked grotto with a dry moat. On a recent chilly day, the lions were largely ignored as the few visitors preferred to regard the ibex, the gazelle and chattering macaques.

The zoo's director, Aziz Gul Saqeb, said war and the harshness of life for all but the wealthy and powerful have sapped the population's normal affinity for animals.

"The conflict destroyed the feeling of the Afghan people for the survival of the animals," he said.

Since the U.S. invasion in late 2001, the zoo has begun the road to recovery, but it is a long one, hampered by Afghan bureaucracy and a lack of money.

The U.N.-sponsored World Society for the Protection

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading about Marjan. It was sad to hear about his death. It's always sad to see animals suffering because humans are so in human.

    I have heard not to impressive stories about Karachi Zoo as well.

    And once, I saw on TV that some leopard kid was caught by a farmer in northern areas and he had locked the poor cat in a cage where he was getting all furious with so many reporters and journalists and camera lights. The farmer said he would only sell the cat for no less 300,000 rupees because the leopard killed his sheep and cattle.