Of Journalism

December 14, 2008

Of a Bear….

Filed under: Uncategorized — fawadalishah @ 1:14 pm

Emma the lonely bear

* By Sayyed Fawad Ali Shah

KARACHI: Emma, 26, was abducted soon after she was born and by the force of circumstance, never got even the ghost of a chance to be with her siblings again.

She is deaf and mute and cannot express her emotions. However, her blood-red eyes reveal everything. She does only two things, sleep and hit her head against the walls of the prison in which she has been locked for the last 25 years. Whether she is cursing her luck or cursing the brutality of humanity, nobody knows. Emma’s universe is limited to walls, a tree and men.

For 25 years, Emma, the Balochi black bear, has been the fancy of visitors at the Karachi Zoo. People visiting the zoo, especially children, gather around her prison since she is the only bear in the zoo. Wearing a muzzle, she looks at them with a mixture of amazement and hate.

Emma is one of the sub-species of the Asiatic or Himalayan black bears. She is medium-sized, and has ears that are proportionately larger than the rest of her head. Her kind have a distinct white patch on their chest, sometimes shaped like a V, and have white fur on their chins.

The Himalayan black bears can be divided into two categories, the south black and the north black. Those bears found in the south are smaller and have short coarse brown fur while those from the north are comparatively darker.

On average, these bears live up to 30 years and prefer to eat Olea ferruginea, Ber (Zizyphus nummularia), starchy rhizomes, dwarf palm fruits, insects and lizards. Unlike other bears however, Emma has no choice in what she gets to eat, and doesn’t seem to complain. “Whatever is provided to her, she eats,” says her keeper, Zaiwar. Her spirit has been crushed to an extent that she is even ready to eat whatever her visitors throw at her.

Emma was born in Balochistan in 1982 and not long after she came into this world, she was caught and handed over to the Wildlife Department. She was then transferred to Karachi with the sole aim of protecting and conserving her species. She has been reduced to a mere caged source of amusement for children and ‘animal lovers’.

“She gets up early in the morning and goes for a walk,” revealed Zaiwar. “She is very polite and doesn’t like to cause harm.” Zaiwar tried to console the frightened children who got scared just by looking at her. The children could not understand that being caged for so long, Emma has forgotten how to be wild.

Zoo and Aquarium District Officer Mansoor Qazi said that the prime purpose of keeping Emma in the zoo was to protect her from being killed. “We want to protect her species and hope she will produce children,” he explained. The director claimed that the prime purpose of establishing the zoo was not to exhibit the animals and use them as entertainment but to save them from being killed.

Emma’s eyes look as if they are questioning the zoo authorities how she can have children in the absence of a mate. Female bears reach sexual maturity when they are three or four years old. In Pakistan, mating has been reported to occur in October and the young are born in February. Emma is 26 years old and is expected to die after four years, without sharing her life with a mate, without bearing children.


1 Comment »

  1. Extremely well-written! Its such a shame that the concerned authorities are n’t paying attention to this poor soul, and many others. It really pains me to find out that they have conveniently ‘forgotten’ to provide her with a ‘partner’ in so many years, despite their empty claims that their aim is to conserve the specie. Animal rights can n’t be ignored more than they are now in Pakistan. Just because they lack ‘intelligence'(which is highly controversial itself, as they say that the difference in intelligence between men like Nietzsche, Einstein and the average man is much more than that between the average man and a chimpanzee), does n’t imply that they have less rights on this planet. Also, I think highly relevant to the issue of conservation of wild life is the conservation of forests. I remember reading in Geography by Huma Naz that a meagre 4% of Pakistan is covered by forests, which the unaware folk are cutting down at enormous impetus. Re-plantation is very expensive and time-costly. Its important that we take great care of the forests left, because with forests also go millions of species of wildlife unique to the equator and its surroundings. We as the dominant specie must learn to behave ourselves! The future of the earth depends on us. Thank you, Fawad, for bringing this issue to the fore-front of our minds, and so elegantly.

    Comment by Usman Farooq — September 2, 2009 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

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