National, Front Page

New zoo law on the cards

Published : 24 Oct 2023 10:30 PM

The Bangladesh National Zoo located at Mirpur in Dhaka city has become unsafe for captive wildlife and other animals due to inefficient management. 

The way the national zoo and other zoos in the country manage and conserve wildlife needs to be upgraded to ensure an environment where they would be happy and healthy. However, lack of a national legislation on zoos is termed as one of the main obstacles to developing zoos.

Against this backdrop, all the government-run zoos in the country, including the Bangladesh National Zoo, are coming under a law. The government is set to enact a new law titled ‘Zoo Act, 2023’ to smoothly run the zoos and ensure facilities for the captive animals there.  

The proposed law has been framed giving importance to fully follow the ‘Wildlife (Preservation and Security) Act, 2012’ or the regulations made under it in the case of wildlife collection in the zoos.

Currently, the Bangladesh National Zoo is managed by an advisory committee under the supervision of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock. 

Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim placed the ‘Zoo Bill, 2023’ in the Parliament on April 6 last and it was sent to the respective parliamentary standing committee for further scrutiny. Later, the committee submitted its report to the Parliament.

After the scrutiny, the ‘Zoo Bill, 2023’ is likely to be passed in the Parliament today (Wednesday). Fisheries and Livestock Minister SM Rezaul Karim is scheduled to move the Bill for passage in the House on Wednesday (October 25), said Senior Secretary of Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat KM Abdus Salam. 

An official of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock said that the ‘Zoo Act, 2023’ is being enacted to make provisions for animal collection, rearing, welfare, treatment, breeding, conservation, control and zoo development, management, infrastructural facilities and other ancillary matters in government-run zoos.

Director of Bangladesh National Zoo Dr Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Talukder on Tuesday told Bangladesh Post that although the zoos in the country have been operating under executive order for a long time,  the zoos are now coming under the law. 

It is a good sign. The ‘Zoo Act, 2023’ will play a vital role in the management of all zoos in the country, including the Bangladesh National Zoo in Dhaka, in a more beautiful and dynamic manner, he said.  

The proposed ‘Zoo Act, 2023’ has 28 sections. Importance has been laid to fully follow the ‘Wildlife (Preservation and Security) Act, 2012’ or the regulations made under the law for running zoos in the country. 

The proposed law reorganised the provisions on the general management of zoos and the advisory council. In the designed law, instructions have been given to implement cages, housing, display and information storage according to the nature and needs of animals kept in zoos. If the condition of the wildlife is such that it cannot be kept alive or it is too difficult for it to survive, how much painless death can be given to the animal has also been highlighted.

Apart from this, the proposed fresh law emphasises that visitors can visit the zoo with ease by paying a fee. 

It also provides for various disciplinary measures to ensure the safety and well-being of zoo animals.

As per the proposed ‘Zoo Act, 2023’, any visitors in the zoo will face fines or imprisonment if they irritate and hurt zoo animals. Tk. 2,000 compensation would be collected from such visitors for exasperating animals while two months of imprisonment and Tk. 5,000 will be imposed for injuring them or giving food without prior permission from the authorities concerned.

According to the proposed law, if a visitor enters any zoo without an entry fee, he will be charged an equivalent amount of the entry fee. However, Tk. 2,000 compensation can be collected from that person considering the level.

All these crimes can be tried through conducting mobile court.

According to the draft law, under no circumstances an animal of the same species of the same sex can be kept in a zoo without a specific reason. No animal would be separated from animals kept in groups for natural reasons except under the direction of the veterinary officer.

Considering the nature of the animal, it should be confined or kept free in cages with minimal natural environment or facilities.

As per the proposed law, the information obtained from regular examination of each animal according to the applicability to determine the extent or level of diseases-germs or parasites which are transmissible from animal to animal or to humans in the body of animals in zoos must be stored separately for each animal in the manner prescribed by the rules.

The proposed law also said that no foreign species of wild animals can be bought, bartered, gifted or otherwise collected in any zoo without the approval of the government.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, chairman of People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Rakibul Haq Emil said that poor management and negligence have turned the Bangladesh National Zoo and other zoos into death camps for the captive wildlife and other animals. Many of the animals at the national zoo at Mirpur are passing days with immense suffering.

He also said that such a law was needed earlier for proper management of zoos. However, the law is being enacted finally. “We are looking at it positively,” he commented.  

The government has not enacted the ‘Zoo Act’ earlier. Without such a law, the Bangladesh National Zoo can’t have membership of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the global association which provides facilities and training for the zoo officials and workers. As a result, employees of Bangladeshi zoos have to work entirely from their experience and most of them have no up-to-date knowledge about zoo keeping.