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This week 50 years ago: Pet gazelle for zoo

This week 50 years ago: Pet gazelle for zoo

ONE of the many differences of 21st century Karachi and that of the 1960s is the element of care with which those who ran the city and those who lived in it handled its tangible and intangible character. This character, call it an unmistakable trait of the city if you like, was noticeable in every sphere of life. Today, loss of human life has become a regular occurrence, and we are trying to get rid of the violent streak that has become part of everyday Karachi goings-on. Sanity, hopefully, will prevail. Here’s how different things were in the 1960s.

Half a century back, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was extremely proactive in protecting animals’ rights. Its members would move around the city to keep an eye on whether animals were treated kindly. On Oct 24, 1966 a rider of a donkey cart in Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s employment was fined Rs5 by the SPCA court. Why? Answer: a week earlier an SPCA inspector caught an injured donkey moving with a limp outside the Karachi Zoological Gardens. Donkeys were employed by the corporation in its horticulture department for pulling the lawn mowers at the zoo.

One more thing that troubled the SPCA at the time was certain people’s infringement on the city’s water troughs constructed for animals to quench their thirst from. On Oct 24, the society put out a request in the newspapers saying it was looking for ‘decent beggars’ or disabled persons who could guard water troughs for animals against their encroachment by men, especially washermen. It added that a nominal payment would be made to the guards and they would be allowed to open small shops in the space near the troughs. Now that’s what you call considerateness towards all segments of society.

So this was the kind of outlook that people in the ‘60s generally had on life. In one of the previous columns an incident that took place at the zoo was mentioned where a film crew’s frantic activities unnerved a couple of animals as a result of which they died. One of them was a gazelle. Moved by the death of the antelope, Begum Rashida Khatoon of Nowshera sent in a replacement. Here’s the back-story. The begum’s son had caught a six-day-old gazelle when he had gone shooting in Mirpurkhas. He brought the baby home and Begum Rashida kept it, fed it milk from a bottle and obtained a licence for it. When she learnt through the newspapers about the death of a male gazelle at the Karachi zoo, she offered her pet as a replacement. The yearling arrived in Karachi from Nowshera on Oct 29 by Awami Express.

While the gazelle was being sent in, a man, a criminal to boot, ran out of a police station a day earlier. Reportedly, the police had started a manhunt for a burglar who escaped from the Khadda police lockup on Oct 28. He was arrested on a charge of theft and burglary and was remanded in police custody by a local court till Nov 2. At 5.30am, the guard on duty found him missing from the lockup. The lock was there, but it was unlocked.

Ah, some things never lock… sorry, change.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2016

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