Protecting the wildlife for diversity
By Amir Murtaza
It is an unfortunate fact that violations of animal rights have been prevalent in all parts of world; yet the phenomenon is widely visible in developing and poor countries.
Animal rights are the rights to humane treatment claimed on behalf of animals, especially the right not to be exploited for human purposes. The main contentious point that ignites the whole debate is the exploitative involvement of non-domesticated animals, such as monkeys, in forced labor.
The roadside monkey shows are a very common sight, in many cities, towns and villages in Pakistan. Many people considered the roadside monkey shows as part of cultural or local traditions that have been in practice for hundreds of years. And such shows are not an uncommon sight in some other countries of South and East Asia like India and Indonesia, where such street shows are also popular.
In these shows the wild animal is forced to sit on very small stools, riding small bicycle, or to act out activities such as shopping, firing with the toy-gun and how the groom goes out to his in-laws house to appease his estranged wife. At the end of the show, the monkey roams around and goes to the spectators with the begging bowl to collect the money.
Children and elders both like these entertaining shows; however, while watching the show, the viewers often forgot to notice the feeble health of the monkey. A stick in the hand of the Master and chain around the monkey’s neck tells the whole story of cruelty and exploitation of a wild animal, for small monetary gain.
After watching such monkey show, I spoke with Basher who insisted that the chained monkey is like his son and he took great care of his monkey name Bala. However, an inch long wound on the leg of his monkey clearly demonstrates the reality. Basher told that he usually earned Rs. 250 to Rs. 300 per day to meet the daily expenses of his family of eight members. One can easily imagine that how much he spends on the food and medicines of his monkey.
Renowned Pakistani legal expert, Advocate Anees Jillani in his article, Pakistan: Law Of the Land And the Rights Of Animals, for South Asia Global Affairs Magazine, Karachi, October 2012, informed that, “The colonial British often indulged in massive hunting sprees. However, they also, perhaps for the first time in the history of this part of the world, introduced the concept of animal rights. In 1890, a law titled the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was introduced. It is a sad reflection on the part of the people of Pakistan and their successive governments that the same law remains on the statute books with minor modifications. The law makes cruelty to animals punishable. A first offense is punishable with one-month imprisonment or a Rs. 50 fine. Three months imprisonment or a Rs.100 fine is accorded for a subsequent offense which is committed within three years of the first one. However, it is doubtful if anybody has ever been imprisoned in Pakistan for being cruel to an animal under this Act.”
While talking to Mundri on a busy street; he told that, “I have five children and my wife has been quite ill for last three years. My daily earning is not more that Rs. 300 per day and in such circumstances it is really hard for me to take extra care of my monkey.” A very large wound around the neck of his monkey from the chain Mundri had on his monkey clearly showing an infection with no apparent treatment.
As Cruelty to Animals is an ineffective law; therefore, violations of the 1890 law is quite common in Pakistan. Due to lack of implementation, trained and untrained, monkeys are visible quite often in big and small cities. Regrettably, these weak, sick and injured monkeys have become a part of beggars’ toll to collect more charity by showing the animal.
Bota used to work as a daily laborer; however, non-availability of any manual work and being the sole earning member of the family he had started begging. Bota told that, “In a few months, I realized that people traveling in cars, especially families with children, handover a good amount of charity to those beggars who have monkeys and asking some money for his food.” Bota, therefore, also bought a baby monkey to increase the begging amount.
Pakistan is the home of a fairly large number of Rhesus macaques, the common brown monkeys. The Rhesus monkeys are mainly located in the northern hill regions of the country and local people often catch and sell them to earn some money. A baby monkey can cost no more than Rs. 10000, while an adult and healthy monkey can cost up to Rs. 20000.
The question of taking animals away from their natural environment is quite serious. Similarly, involvement of wild animals, such as monkeys, in exploited labor presents a grim reality that respect of animal rights is exceptional rather than routine in countries, where wild animals amuse and entertain the people on the streets.
The wildlife department and wildlife conservation organizations should involve the grassroots organizations to plan and rescue the monkeys from captivity. As immediate release of rescued monkeys in the wild would not be an appropriate option; therefore, they should be protected in a shelter house and train them to set free in the wild in coming time.
Since, these monkeys are the breadwinners of poor families therefore a handsome compensation amount should be given to the families. In addition, micro credit facility should also make available to them with a view to initiate and establish any source of income such as small businesses.