ISLAMABAD: Two Himalayan bears rejected by Pakistani zoos will be taken care of by the Jordanian government and housed in a sanctuary run by the Princess Alia Foundation, a wildlife official said on Saturday.
The badly abused dancing bears, who have torture marks and have had their teeth removed, were rescued from their captors years ago and moved to Islamabad Zoo.
Along with Kaavan the elephant, who is awaiting relocation to a sanctuary in Cambodia, the bears are the only animals left at the zoo, which is closing down.
“They (the bears) will be going to Jordan because of the facilitation by the Jordanian government,” the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) chairman Dr. Anees ur Rehman told Arab News. “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 said 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.
The sanctuary, Al-Ma’wa Wildlife Reserve, was established in 2011 by the Princess Alia Foundation and the international animal welfare group Four Paws in Jerash, northern Jordan. It houses wild and exotic animals who have been rescued from traffickers, abusive owners or poorly run zoos.
Following the deaths of several animals at Islamabad Zoo, reportedly due to negligence, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah ordered that the bears be relocated.
“Actually, we had requested other zoos and sanctuaries in the country if they could take these bears,” Rehman said. “There is a bear sanctuary in Pakistan, but no one was ready to take them.” He added that the female bear, Suzi, was injured and needed treatment that local vets had been unable to provide.
But a Four Paws team came to Pakistan in late September to help treat her and now both animals are being saved by being relocated.
“They cleaned it (the wound) and dressed it,” Rehman said. “They have given her antibiotics and changed her diet with high-quality food. It is amazing that the wound, which was not healing during the last one-and-a-half years, has completely healed.”
Four Paws coordinator Haniya Tariq said the bears were not properly looked after at Islamabad Zoo.
“The bears, especially Suzi, were living in very bad conditions before the arrival of the Four Paws team from Austria,” Tariq told Arab News. “Her diet was entirely unsuitable. Milk was causing diarrhea. She was unhappy. Her nails were grown so much that she could not walk properly. After surgery, Suzi is now living in the lion’s enclosure where there is water and grass for her to roam around. It’s still not ideal, obviously, but the wound is fully healed. Their diet has been changed now, it’s a mix of good fruits and honey.”