Last two animals at run-down Pakistani zoo leave as it closes for good

Suzie and Bubaloo’s nightmare is over: Bears who were the last remaining animals at hellish Pakistani zoo follow Kaavan ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’ to a new life elsewhere

  • Bubloo and Suzie, two Himalayan brown bears, had been housed at the Marghazar Zoo in Pakistan for 13 years 
  • Former dancing bears, 17-year-old pair were kept in ‘poor’ conditions which left them malnourished and sick 
  • But on Wednesday they left for a shelter in Jordan, becoming the final animals to move out as the zoo closed
  • Marghazar, opened in 1978, was also home to Kaavan, the ‘world’s loneliest elephant’, who left two weeks ago

The Pakistani zoo which once housed the ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ Kaavan has now closed for good after the last of its animals were taken to shelters overseas.

Marghazar Zoo, in the capital Islamabad, shut its doors on Wednesday following the departure of Bubloo and Suzie, two Himalayan brown bears who had been kept in captivity there for 13 years.

The pair, both aged 17, will now travel 11 hours to a shelter in Jordan to be cared for by the Princess Alia Foundation, which was founded by the king’s eldest daughter.

It comes two weeks after Kaavan, a 35-year-old bull elephant, was taken from the zoo to Cambodia following a high-profile campaign spearheaded by singer Cher and carried out by animal charity Four Paws.

Bubloo, a Himalayan brown bear kept at Marghazar Zoo in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, was one of the last two animals to leave the zoo on Wednesday – as it shut its doors for good

Bubloo (left and right) was taken from the wild as a cub and raised as a dancing bear, where he suffered abuse including having most of his teeth pulled out. He came to the zoo in 2007, then-aged four, and has been there for 13 years

Suzie, another Himalayan brown bear, was also taken out of the run-down zoo on Wednesday. Pakistani judges had ruled earlier this year that all animals should be taken away, as the zoo could no longer care for them 

‘The Islamabad zoo is now completely closed for both public and officials,’ Saleem Shaikh, a spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of climate change told AFP.

‘Both the bears will be flown to a sanctuary in Jordan.’

Islamabad Zoo was established in 1978 on 10 hectares of land as a home for indigenous species.

But it soon expanded into a tourist attraction, taking in animals from overseas that were often donated as gifts.

Kaavan was given to the zoo as a present by the then-leader of Sri Lanka in 1985 to mark new economic ties with Pakistan.

Bubloo and Suzie ended up at the zoo in 2007, then aged four, having been taken from the wild as cubs and brought up as dancing bears.

The pair suffered years of abuse, having their teeth pulled out to stop them attacking their trainers while being beaten in order to make them dance.

Concerns had been raised over their welfare again in recent years, after Suzie suffered an infection following an operation to remove a tumour.

The zoo had also housed Kaavan, known as the ‘world’s loneliest elephant’, who was freed two weeks ago after a years-long campaign spearheaded by musician Cher (pictured right, in the zoo with Kaavan)

Kaavan, a 35-year-old bull elephant who was gifted to Pakistan by his native Sri Lanka in 1985, is now living at a spacious shelter in Cambodia

Kaavan (left) had his first contact with another elephant in more than three decades as he moved into his new enclosure, which is opposite a pen containing another elephant (right)

The infection left her with a large wound on her chest that surgeons in Pakistan were unable to close, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

Surgeons were eventually brought from overseas and closed the wound after had Suzie spent months in pain. 

Dr. Amir Khalil, a medic with Four Paws who has been treating the bears, said Suzie is also suffering from malnutrition since she has no teeth, making it difficult for her to eat.

Meanwhile Bubloo has an abscessed tooth that is making him aggressive, Dr Khalil said, which is unusual for Himalayan bears.

Both animals are also ‘exhibiting stereotypical behavior’ indicating years of mistreatment, including rocking back and forth – an indication of both stress and boredom while being kept in a cramped environment.

Khalil first visited the zoo in 2016, describing conditions at the time as ‘poor’. He added that a number of recommendations were made but were ignored.

According to its records, the zoo once contained 960 animals but 500 ‘disappeared’.

Marghazar Zoo, founded in 1978, shuts its gate forever after the last of its animals were taken away. The zoo once housed 960 animals, and will now be converted into a wildlife sanctuary

Workers from charity Four Paws, which led the campaign to rescue the animals, prepare cages to transport Bubloo and Suzie, who will now be taken 11 hours away to Jordan 

Dr. Amir Khalil has been working will the zoo since 2016 to arrange care for the animals and, ultimately, oversee their transfer out of Pakistan and to shelters elsewhere

The brown bear enclosure is shut down after Bubloo and Suzie, the last two animals at Marghazar Zoo, are taken overseas to live out their days in better conditions

‘No one knows where those 500 animals disappeared to,’ said Khalil, who said the remainder were in deeply neglected condition.

Judges in Pakistan eventually ruled that the remaining animals should be taken abroad as they could not be properly cared for.  

Two lions died during their relocation when zookeepers attempted to pry them from their pen by setting ablaze piles of hay. An ostrich also died in the move.

Authorities now plan to expand the zoo into a wildlife conservation centre.

With little legislation to safeguard animal welfare, zoos across Pakistan are notorious for their poor conditions.

In 2018, some 30 animals died within months of a new zoo opening in the northwestern city of Peshawar, including three snow leopard cubs.

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