By Faiza Ilyas
KARACHI: While countries across the world are taking steps to stop the exploitation of animals, especially those that live in the wild, it is unfortunate to see that animals in the heart of the city and under government patronage are being used for public amusement.
The Great Pakistani Circus, being run daily at the KMC Sport Complex, would have been an incredible show had it not featured animals.
Last Tuesday, the event organisers offered short performances by a pair of chimpanzees, a critically endangered animal listed in the Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) followed by skits by miniature horses and then dogs.
One of the chimps, perhaps the male, which is said to be more aggressive, was continuously kept on a leash during the performance that included riding a bicycle and different balancing acts. Under international law the species can only be exchanged between countries for research purposes.
Two ostriches and a baby lion were also brought in amid applause, though they didn’t perform. Held in the arms of one of the performers, the lion cub seemed unwell as it was unable to stand on the ground when allowed to walk in the arena.
It didn’t obey the trainer’s instructions to get up and continued to rest on the ground lazily while all participating performers waved to the audience as the show drew to an end.
According to sources, there were more big cats kept in cages, but for some reason were not produced in the arena on Tuesday. Lions are listed in the Appendix II of CITES and are regarded as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their international trade is regulated through issuance of export and import permits.
Apart from the five- to 10-minute segments reserved for animal performances and the presence of other animals in the show, it would be unfair not to appreciate the quality with which the entire programme was executed.
The entertainers, some of them invited from Russia, Ukraine and Malaysia, aptly performed their acts, which was thoroughly enjoyed by spectators, most of them children.
“It’s perhaps the first time that we are seeing such a wonderful circus in Karachi. All the performers were great,” said Tariq Ali, who had come with his friends to attend the show.
However, some participants questioned as to why the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had allowed the holding of a circus in a sports complex.
“Digging to erect circus poles has damaged the basketball ground. Besides, the food items being sold here are too costly, for instance, a small mineral bottle is for Rs70 that otherwise costs Rs20 in the market,” complained a young lady, adding that a part of the complex was also being used as a restaurant.
No ban on the circus
With the debate over animal rights and the commercial use of animals, especially those that are either wild or exotic, goes on, the list of countries/cities putting a complete or partial ban on the use of animals in circuses is expanding.
Last month, San Francisco under an ordinance banned performances by wild and exotic animals from the circus big top to movie and television sets.
The legislation made it the largest city to adopt such a sweeping prohibition on the commercial use of wild animals (domesticated animals not included) for public amusement.
It bars any public showing, carnival, fair, parade, petting zoo, ride, race, film shot or other undertaking in which wild or exotic animals “are required to perform tricks, fight or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement or benefit of an audience.”
Last year, Mexico became the 29th state to introduce an animal circus prohibition that was considered as the biggest breakthrough in the campaign to stop the suffering of circus animals.
What is causing nations/societies to legislate against commercial use of animals is the realisation that animals do not perform in shows voluntarily but are rather forced to act in a certain way by trainers who often use painful tools as part of their training.
Animal rights proponents argue that public showing of animals also involves a risk to spectators’ safety and there are many examples in which animals have attacked people watching shows.
“Unfortunately, there’s no law to prohibit public exhibition of wild species in the country. Our organisation discourages such practices and public exposure of wild species shouldn’t be supported,” said Dr Ejaz Ahmad, representing the World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan. More....