Sindh Wildlife Department orders inquiry into Shahid Afridi’s lion episode

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Sindh Wildlife Department (SWD) conservator Taj Mohammad Shaikh says he has ordered an inquiry into the presence of a lion in former Pakistani cricket captain Shahid Afridi’s home, photos of which went viral on social media last week.

If found guilty, appropriate action will be taken against former cricketer Shahid Afridi and others, said Shaikh.

Afridi and his six-year-old daughter were recently seen posing with an African lion inside their house. Both Afridi and his daughter were seen within the reach of the carnivorous beast on the tiled floor with no barriers in between them.

The lion was brought to the house of the player by one of his fans, Hassan Hussain, for recreation. The owner of the lion, Hassan, while responding to Dawn’s queries said he had brought up the lion, now two years old, when its mother died after giving birth. He further said the lion was fully tamed and safe to be with.

Hassan added that he was a fan of Afridi and took the lion to his house to show it to his children after obtaining travel permit from the SWD.

“The lion remained chained during the visit,” he said.

To a question, he said the lion was not put in a cage and the animal remained seated next to him in his double-cabin pickup during the journey from his house to Afridi’s.

Afridi’s manager Arsalan Haider Shah, when contacted, said the lion was tamed and there was no danger involved.

“The lion remained chained for additional safety,” he added.

An SWD official, Adnan Khan, said Mr Hussain possessed a licence for a private mini zoo and kept the animals at his house located in PECHS and also had an animal breeding farm in Mirpur Sakro.

He added that transporting animals was risky and special protocols were needed to be followed, particularly in case of carnivores. The official further said that even tamed animals were risky to handle.

The sources were of the view that exposing children to such danger was questionable.They said there were protective grills even in zoos in addition to the cages where lions were kept. “There is usually a distance of five to six feet between the visitors and the iron bars of the lions’ cage to ensure safety of the visitors,” he explained.

When asked what action the SWD could take, conservator Shaikh said Afridi and Hassan could be warned or fined if the action would be lenient.

“Suspension or revocation of Hassan’s licence is another possibility. In an extreme case, we can even confiscate the animal,” he concluded.

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