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Go once, go twice… Pakistani lions to be auctioned

#twice.. #Pakistani #lions #auctioned

A Pakistani zoo is auctioning off a dozen lions to private collectors next week to make room for a pride that won’t stop growing.

The Lahore Safari Zoo now has so many big cats that their lions and tigers have to take turns in the paddocks, said Tanvir Ahmed Janjua, the zoo’s deputy director.

“Not only will we make more space here, but our spending on meat to feed them will go down,” he told AFP.

The zoo is currently home to 29 lions, and officials are planning an Aug. 11 auction to sell 12 of them, aged between two and five years.

There are also six resident tigers and two jaguars.

Conservationists oppose the sale. The environmental group WWF demands that the animals be taken to other established zoos, that the female animals be sterilized or that contraceptives be given.

“Animal swaps and donations between zoos are a widely accepted practice,” the organization’s Uzma Khan told AFP.

“Once an institution like a zoo puts a price tag on a wild animal species, they encourage trade – which is counterproductive for conservation,” she added.

Keeping lions, tigers and other exotic wild animals as pets is not uncommon in Pakistan and is considered a status symbol.

Wealthy owners post pictures and video clips of their big cats on social media and rent them out as props for movies and photo shoots.

Zoo officials have set a reserve of 150,000 Pakistani rupees (US$700) per cat but hope each cat will fetch about 2 million rupees.

However, not everyone can take part in the auction.

Janjua said buyers must be registered with provincial authorities and show they have the means to properly care for and house the creatures.

The zoo’s veterinary officer, Muhammad Rizwan Khan, told AFP an initial attempt last year to auction lions failed because potential buyers lacked the necessary paperwork or licenses.

Nouman Hassan, who has run afoul of authorities in the past when he was filmed walking his pet tiger on a leash in Lahore, plans to attend.

“I will definitely try to buy two to three lions,” he told AFP, adding the auction is a good way to diversify the gene pool for private collectors who already own a big cat.

With little animal welfare legislation in place, zoos across Pakistan are notorious for their poor facilities, but Lahore Safari Zoo, at over 200 hectares, is considered one of the best.

In April 2020, a court ordered the only zoo in the country’s capital to be closed after poor facilities and animal abuse were exposed there.

The facility had drawn international condemnation for treating an Asian elephant named Kaavan, who was later flown to Cambodia for retirement in a jumbo project led by US pop star and actress Cher.

Vet Khan said the animals at Lahore Safari Zoo receive the best possible care – something that is reflected in their fertility.

“They experience a good life in captivity with us,” he said.

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#twice.. #Pakistani #lions #auctioned

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