Paws for thought: Jordan to adopt two abused bears from Pakistan

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Dr. Frank Goritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) Berlin, treats Suzi, the female bear at Islamabad Zoo, on Sept. 22. (Photo courtesy: IWMB)
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A Himalayan bear, which is awaiting relocation to Jordan, steps out of its enclosure at Islamabad Zoo on Oct. 3, 2020. (AN photo)
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Suzi, a female Himalayan bear which is awaiting relocation to Jordan, sits in her enclosure at Islamabad Zoo on Oct. 3. (AN photo)
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Updated 05 October 2020

Paws for thought: Jordan to adopt two abused bears from Pakistan

  • Creatures only animals left at soon-to-close Islamabad Zoo

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.




Suzi, a female Himalayan bear which is awaiting relocation to Jordan, sits in her enclosure at Islamabad Zoo on Oct. 3. (AN photo)

“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.




A Himalayan bear, which is awaiting relocation to Jordan, steps out of its enclosure at Islamabad Zoo on Oct. 3, 2020. (AN photo)

“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.”


Tower of London ravens re-adapt to life after lockdown

Updated 19 October 2020

Tower of London ravens re-adapt to life after lockdown

  • The 1,000-year-old royal fortress was closed due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions
  • This raised fears the birds — known as the guardians of the Tower — would fly away to find another place

LONDON: Chris Skaife has one of the most important jobs in Britain. As Yeoman Warder Ravenmaster at the Tower of London, he is responsible for the country’s most famous birds.
According to legend firmly rooted in Britain’s collective imagination, if all the ravens were to leave the Tower, the kingdom would collapse and the country be plunged into chaos.
Coronavirus lockdown restrictions saw tourist attractions across the country close their doors, including the imposing 1,000-year-old royal fortress on the banks of the River Thames.
That left Skaife with an unprecedented challenge of how to entertain the celebrated avian residents, who suddenly found themselves with no one to play with — or rob food from.
It also raised fears the birds — known as the guardians of the Tower — would fly away to try to find tasty morsels elsewhere, and worse still, risk the legend coming to pass.
There are eight ravens in captivity in the Tower of London: Merlina, Poppy, Erin, Jubilee, Rocky, Harris, Gripp and George.
A royal decree, purportedly issued in the 17th century, stated there must be six on site at any one time but Skaife said he keeps two as “spares,” “just in case.”
They are free to roam the grounds but to prevent them from flying too far, their wings are trimmed back slightly.
Back in March when lockdown began, Skaife — who is in his 50s and a retired staff sergeant and former drum major in the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment — was furloughed.
But he still came to work to look after his majestic feathered charges, rotating feeding and caring duties with his three assistants.
“During that period of time, the ravens didn’t actually see anybody,” he told AFP.
“There were slight changes that I noticed. For instance, I had to keep them occupied without the public being there (and) there were less things for them to do.
“So I gave them enrichment toys that would help them enjoy their day.”
With no people around, he put balloons, ladders and even mirrors in their cages to keep them entertained, and hid food around the Tower grounds for them to find.
Breakfast time involves Skaife, in the distinctive black and red uniform of the “Beefeaters,” distributing a meal of chicks and mice, which the ravens cheerfully devour.
Skaife’s favorite is Merlina, he reveals with a smile.
She has become an Internet favorite from his frequent posts and videos of her on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, which have more than 120,000 followers.
Once feeding time is over, he opens the cages on the south lawn to allow them to stretch their wings.
The Tower reopened its doors on July 10 but the pandemic has had a devastating effect on visitor numbers.
Some 60,000 people visited the Tower every week in October 2019 but it is now only 6,000, according to Historic Royal Palaces, which manages the site.
During the three-month national lockdown, Skaife said the ravens were given more freedom to explore other parts of the Tower.
But to be doubly sure they didn’t fly off completely, their wings were clipped back further.
The birds are now kept in their cages more often to make sure they eat enough, as there are slim pickings from the Tower’s rubbish bins because of the reduced footfall.
“I don’t particularly like doing it,” said Skaife.
He says the ravens may be kept in cages but the Tower is their real home.
“So, I would never want to keep a raven in an enclosure.”
Now, as life returns to a semblance of normality, the ravens are re-adapting to seeing more humans again and their old routine.
Skaife has looked after the ravens for the last 14 years, tending to their needs out of clear affection but also out of a sense of historic and patriotic duty.
“Of course, we don’t want the legend to come true,” he said.