Saving Baboo, the baby tiger: Inside Pakistan’s zoo-turned-rescue centre

A zoo that was shut down because of animal cruelty has been transformed into a facility rescuing hundreds of wild animals.


From Zoo to Rescue Centre

The former Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, was closed in 2020 due to animal cruelty concerns. Following the closure, the Islamabad High Court entrusted the zoo's premises to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB), a government body in charge of wildlife preservation in the region.

In collaboration with local animal rights activists and the conservation non-profit organization Second Chance Wildlife, the IWMB began using the old zoo's premises as a rehabilitation center for rescued animals. Since 2020, the Margalla Wildlife Rescue Centre has saved over 380 animals, including endangered species like Bengal tigers, bears, and pangolins.

The centre not only responds to reports of injured wildlife but also conducts raids to rescue animals involved in illegal activities, such as poaching and entertainment industries.

Baboo's Journey to Recovery

One of the animals rescued by the Margalla Wildlife Rescue Centre is Baboo, a Bengal tiger. When Baboo was found, he was weak and suffering from malnutrition and multiple bone fractures due to early separation from his mother. A team of staff and volunteers at the centre provided him with daily care and treatment, leading to his full recovery.

Eventually, it became apparent that Baboo required more space and the company of other tigers, which the centre couldn't provide. After a lengthy administrative and fundraising process, Baboo was successfully relocated to the Isindile Big Cat and Predator Sanctuary in South Africa.

The IWMB has plans to establish a sanctuary capable of housing animals that cannot be released back into their natural habitats. However, the centre faces challenges, including fundraising difficulties and opposition from the Capital Development Authority, which previously managed the zoo and hopes to reopen it.

Continuing the Mission

The Margalla Wildlife Rescue Centre aims to expand its capacity to rehabilitate wildlife, especially big cats like leopards. The area is home to indigenous leopard populations, and conflicts between humans and leopards are frequent. The centre also focuses on releasing animals back into their natural habitats once they have recovered.

While the centre relies on civil society donations to cover its increasing costs, it continues to emphasize care and conservation over cruelty. The IWMB and its partners remain committed to safeguarding Pakistan's threatened and vulnerable wildlife species.