The zoo currently houses 29 lions and its authorities plan to hold a auction on August 11 to sell to 12 of them between the ages of two and five.
Environmentalists oppose the saleand the WWF organization proposed moving the animals to other zoos or sterilize females or give them contraceptives.
“The exchange and the animal donation between zoos are very accepted practices,” said WWF’s Uzma Khan. “Once an institution like a zoo puts a price on a wild species, is promoting tradewhich is contrary to conservation,” he added.
It is not uncommon in Pakistan to have lions, tigers and other exotic species, and it is even seen as a status symbol.
Their wealthy owners post photos and videos of their cats on social media and rent them out for movies and photo shoots.
Zoo authorities set up a reserve of 150,000 Pakistani rupees ($700) per felinebut they expect each to generate around two million rupees. But not everyone can participate in the auction.
Janjua indicated that buyers must be registered with provincial authorities and show that they have means to provide adequate care to felines.
The zoo’s veterinarian, Muhammad Rizwan Khan, said an initial attempt to auction off the lions last year failed because potential buyers lacked the necessary documentation or licenses.
One thinking of participating is Nouman Hassan, who was questioned by authorities in the past when he was filmed walking his pet tiger on a leash in Lahore.
“I will try to buy two or three lions,” he said. He added that the auction is a good way to diversify the gene pool of private collectors who already have a big cat.
With little legislation to protect the animals, zoos there are known for their inadequate facilities. But the Lahore Safari Zoo, situated on 81 hectares, is considered one of the best.
In April 2020, a court ordered the capital’s only zoo closed after poor conditions and mistreatment of the animals were revealed.