A recent video that was doing the rounds on social media announced that a “Little Animal Zoo” had been set up inside an upscale shopping mall in Lahore. This obviously caught the attention of many, especially children.
Zoos all over the world attract family visitors in hordes. Generally, they house animals and birds in their respective cages which have been designed to replicate their natural habitat. But a zoo in a mall is what set the more socially aware people thinking all right.
The next you knew, the zoo had got the likes of rabbits, turtles, cats, puppies, hens, a peacock, a python, an ostrich, and baby monkeys — in a semi-caged environment where the visitors could see them and, in some cases, hold, pet, feed and play with the domesticated ones.
All told, the mini zoo had been put up for a total of four days, but this made for one unique event — and a very popular one, indeed. Long queues of people were seen outside the creatively designed entrance to the zoo. The décor of the place was such that it successfully recreated the look and feel of a jungle.
To suit the theme (of the jungle), artificial trees and animals had been put on display. Spotlights were placed in a manner that added to the ‘imagery’.
Moving on, there were cages on your left and right sides, while you walked the path in the middle. The cages were clean and covered by a fence so that no one would get too close to the animals/birds. Also, they were large enough to allow the animals and birds easy mobility. However, they still were cages.
There were proper signboards about each animal and bird. On the downside, though, despite being air-conditioned, the place was a tad too suffocating, perhaps because of the number of people who had descended on the venue.
Whether the people came along with their children or the children dragged in their elders, the place was packed to capacity throughout.
There were moments of anger as well as mirth when someone was spotted arguing with the staff about the absence of giraffes; or when the management forced the children away from animals.
The initial publicity for the event had mentioned bringing in a lion cub also, but the animal was nowhere to be seen. This irked the visitors. Bushra Khan, the marketing manager for the mall explained: “The cub was too young to be removed from its habitat. If we had transported it, the animal would stress too much.”
Some of the animals in the Little Zoo had been got from people who kept them as pets, or they were rescued from local markets selling animals. In the words of Khan, “It was hard to gather so many animals under one roof, and it was a huge responsibility. A number of animals were taken from their owners for the event but the smaller ones such as chicks, rabbits, monkeys, and puppies were brought from the market as rescues.”
According to Khan, the ostrich which was a huge (literally!) attraction for the public was got from a private zoo where it had been kept in a congested cage that made its life miserable.
“We’ve adopted the smaller animals, and once the event ends they would be handed over to families that own farm houses. The idea is to afford them [the animals] a better life.”
Riffat Alam, an A-level student and an advocate of animal rights, who was visiting the place, said, “Globally, people are going against the zoo culture, as it puts the animals behind metal bars, away from their natural habitat, for years. We humans don’t have the right to breed, capture, or confine animals, even if they are endangered.”
A research says that animals kept in captivity suffer from stress, boredom, and confinement. They are cut off from their natural surroundings and bonds. A number of posts on social media spoke strongly against the Little Zoo event, as it was conflicted with animal rights.