Stop Animal Cruelty in Bahrain’s Zoos

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Animal cruelty is widespread across the Kingdom of Bahrain. 

From the out of control stray dog and cat population, which the government is currently attempting “to control” by relocating dogs to the deserts of Bahrain where they have trouble finding food and water and suffer from diseases like distemper, to the import of wild animals to be kept as domestic pets, to the plentiful cases of animal beatings, burnings, and mutilations, to the appalling conditions in zoos across the country, Bahrain is not a safe and happy place for most of its animal population. 

I am a US national with a life long interest in the Middle East and an animal welfare advocate.  I completed my bachelor’s degree in Middle East Studies at the George Washington University in 2015, for which I spent considerable time in Jordan and Morocco. Following my undergraduate studies, I received a Fulbright Grant to Bahrain. It was then that I first discovered the appalling abuse animals endure here and began focusing on animal welfare in Bahrain.  I am currently  pursuing a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and was awarded a grant to conduct an animal rights/welfare research project in Bahrain this summer. I hope that my findings will help expose the current state of animal welfare in Bahrain, encourage the Government to take action, and incite a positive change for animals in Bahrain. 

My findings at the zoos have been incredibly heartbreaking; 

• At Tasneem Zoo, a baboon is chained by his neck to the inside of his small cage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The chain is no longer than a meter and there has been no water or food in his cage the multiple times that I have visited. He paces back and forth, exhibiting stereotypic “zoochotic” behavior, a type of mental suffering caused by captivity. There are cats who are far too skinny, with their kittens, panting in cages outside, in temperatures above 45 degrees, again with no water in sight. There is a monkey being swung in the air by a leash held by a zoo keeper.

• At Al Areen Zoo, there is a lion who is always sedentary and panting excessively, without exerting himself, who only has a small bit of dirty water in an enclosure that is too small and doesn’t provide any enrichment. There are brown bears, who are supposed to live in forested areas of cooler climates, in a small enclosure reminiscent of a desert with barely enough water for the bears to wet a paw. There is a sole chimp (chimps are social animals and should not be kept in solitude) who appears depressed, bored, and lonely.

• At Arman Zoo in 2016, I worked with other animal rescuers to rescue cats and dogs who had been beaten at the hands of zoo workers and visitors and suffered broken bones and teeth, were malnourished and dehydrated, had pneumonias and various other illnesses, were infested with fleas and ticks, had ringworm and suffered outside in temperatures over 45 degrees in small cages with no shade.  This zoo has also attracted international attention when a video of a zoo worker beating one of the zoo’s monkey went viral.  Arman Zoo, although better now than two years ago, continues to hold various animals in improper and insufficient enclosures, including alligators, tortoises, and baboons.

The list of animals being improperly cared for and abused in zoos across Bahrain goes on and on.

The Bahraini Government and those specifically responsible for handling these animal welfare complaints, namely the Ministry of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture and the Supreme Council for the Environment, have repeatedly ignored my and many others’ emails and phone calls, as well as countless Facebook and Instagram posts and articles both in local news and abroad, addressing our concern for these animals. 

There is an Animal Welfare Law in Bahrain, which states that animal owners and caregivers should ensure that there is no harm or suffering inflicted on their animals and that animals are kept in appropriate facilities and proper living conditions (in addition to many other requirements), but it remains unenforced.  Why introduce a new law and not enforce it?

While all animal abuse cases in this country are disgusting and heinous, lack of action against the cruelty taking place in these zoos, which is extremely easy to monitor, has a unique and longstanding negative impact for Bahrain and its animal inhabitants.

 Bringing children to these zoos for “entertainment purposes,” as school trips and families often do, perpetuates the idea that the treatment of animals at these places is “normal,” which in turn will ensure that these children grow up thinking that what is actually animal cruelty is entirely normal, dooming animals in Bahrain to a bleak future with no end in sight for animal cruelty. 

It is time for Bahrain to stop ignoring these animals’ misery. 

 Please sign this petition asking the Ministry of Municipalities Affairs & Agriculture and the Supreme Council for the Environment to put an end to the cruelty animals experience in Bahrain’s zoos, either by enforcing the Animal Welfare Law, which is meant to ensure proper living conditions, or by agreeing to send these animals to reputable sanctuaries abroad where they can live out their lives in peace and happiness.