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Op-ed: A tale of two bears

Unfortunately, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorises the Himalayan Brown bears as critically endangered and facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

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In Martin Waddell’s children’s storybook titled “Two Brown Bears”, Joe Bear and Harriet Bear have fun adventures, they convert bicycles into planes and go exploring. However, the delightful fiction is far from the cruel reality faced by the two Brown bears, Bubloo and Suzie, languishing in the Islamabad Zoo.

Although unable to convert bicycles into planes, the fascinating Himalayan brown bears have a similarity to the human way of life. According to WWF, they can stand on two legs, walk on the soles of their feet, pick things up with their ‘’fingers’’, and often eat the same food as humans. They have an ability to communicate with one another through scratch marks left on trees, smells and sounds.

The two bears belong to a critically endangered species

Unfortunately, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorises the Himalayan Brown bears as critically endangered and facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

As per the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “The Himalayan subspecies of the brown bears are one of the oldest and most significant inhabitants of the Deosai Plateau. The population of these bears — once known to be over 10,000 in number — has now plummeted to an estimated 54 bears residing in the plains.’”

In view of the highly alarming statistics above, it is imperative that they are cared for and their population is preserved as a matter of high priority. However, ever since the two Himalayan brown bears were relocated to the Islamabad Zoo, they suffered nothing but endless torment. Even before their arrival at the Islamabad Zoo, their former owners used to treat them miserably.

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Bubloo and Suzie: Pakistan’s two dancing bears

Bubloo and Suzie were dancing bears. They were rescued by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board from their former owners who used to engage them in the aforesaid cruel practice for the purposes of entertainment and amusement of the general public.

They had been badly abused by their former owners. Local news sources reported that they had torture marks and their teeth were removed by their former owners. After being rescued, they were relocated to the Islamabad Zoo.

No solace at the Islamabad Zoo

Unfortunately, at the Islamabad Zoo, they failed to find any solace and their predicament continued for years. In Islamabad Wildlife Management Board vs Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, the Islamabad High Court observed the treatment that was subjected towards the bears.

The Court stated, “The two brown bears have been kept in inadequately equipped and extremely small enclosures. Their hygiene, food requirements and health condition are severely neglected. The amicus, in her report, has described the confined area as a ‘bare enclosure’ because it is bereft of any shade while the indoor area is all made of concrete. The health condition of the Bears was poor and one needed immediate medical assistance.’”

They continued to face abuse from the general public/visitors at the zoo. Although they were no longer made to dance, they were kept in an inadequate closure at the zoo. The court noted, “It has been reported that the visitors tease the caged animals by throwing articles, pelting stones, poking at them or disturbing them with loud noise.

This heckling and teasing of the caged animals further exacerbates their pain and agony. By no stretch of the imagination do the conditions of captivity at the Zoo meet the needs of the living species, rather they have been subjected to unnecessary pain and suffering, while the management is presumed to know that in such an eventuality the lives of the captive animals are at risk.”

Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah directed that the Bears be relocated to their respective sanctuaries.

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The two bears off to Jordan

Bubloo and Suzie and Kaavan the elephant are the only animals left at the soon-to-close Islamabad Zoo. While Kaavan is awaiting relocation to a sanctuary in Cambodia, Bubloo and Suzie will be adopted by the Jordanian government and housed in a sanctuary run by the Princess Alia Foundation, Arab News reported.

No sanctuary in Pakistan was ready to provide a home to the badly abused Brown bears. “Actually, we had requested other zoos and sanctuaries in the country if they could take these bears,” stated Anis-ur-Rahman, head of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB).

“They (the bears) will be going to Jordan because of the facilitation by the Jordanian government…The bear sanctuary is looked after by the (Jordanian) king’s aunt, Princess Alia, and she has given us an import permit within a day”, he further added in a statement given to Arab News. He informed that the IWMB was awaiting clearance from the Pakistani government and that the bears were expected to leave for Jordan within the next few weeks.

No home in Pakistan

Considering the declining population of the Himalayan Brown bears in Pakistan and their status as being critically endangered and on the verge of extinction, it is extremely upsetting that no zoo or sanctuary in Pakistan was ready to accept the bears.

Hopefully, Bubloo and Suzie will find the happiness, love, care and compassion in Jordan that they could not receive in the country where they were born.

The writer is a Barrister of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, lecturer of constitutional and civil law and a human rights activist. She tweets @RidaT95. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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