It’s a jungle out there – 18 Feb 2023

Pakistan may be seen as a proverbial jungle when it comes to its current state but it seems the proverbial may just be turning into the literal as leopards – in this case one – roam the streets. The Islamabad Police have registered a case against an individual in Islamabad after a leopard he was keeping in his home escaped and began roaming the streets of the area on Thursday night, naturally putting the safety of other residents at risk. While it may seem common sense to not keep dangerous animals at home, Pakistan also has laws in place that expressly outlaw any such wild animals from being kept in homes or in private zoos. Unfortunately, as has been seen in the past as well, the implementation of these is extremely poor.

In this case, the authorities have filed a case of attempted murder and negligent action. For some reason, holding wild animals as ‘pets’ at homes is considered a status symbol by many among the elite and we have seen home-kept tigers, lions, bears and other wild animals previously as well. We have even seen political parties trot out caged animals in rallies – the PML-N’s ‘sher’ is one example of that. Courts have taken up the matter and in Punjab, there was a review of the existing laws in 2021 in an attempt to tighten them and ensure the safety of animals. There is often little recognition that keeping an animal in a house takes it away from its natural habitat and therefore its ability to live a normal life along with others of its species. ‘Wild’ animals are never supposed to be tamed. This is not only a safety hazard for humans but is downright cruel to the animal itself.

The unfortunate leopard who escaped onto the streets must have been terrified by traffic or even people passing by, given that wild animals are not supposed to be savvy about city life. People must have been equally terrified. The fact that the Islamabad Police have taken action in this case and gone after the owner is a good sign. We hope that more will be done to both preserve wildlife in a country where it is dwindling as habitats are lost and raise awareness among people about the need to protect the species with whom they share the planet and which are essential to its ecological systems in so many different ways.

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