Afghanistan's authorities fear contagion from the only pig that lives within its borders. According to news sources, this pig is a curiosity in a Muslim land where pork products are illegal and sacrilegious. For the last few days, since visitors expressed alarm that the animal could spread the flu strain, the pig is in quarantine.
In the words of the zoo’s director, Aziz Gul Saqib:
“For now the pig is under quarantine. We built it a room because of the swine influenza. We've done this because people are worried about getting the flu. We understand that spread is very unlikely because there are no direct flights between Kabul and Mexico, but most people don't have enough knowledge. When they see the pig in the cage they get worried and think that they could get ill.”
The pig was a gift to the zoo from China, which itself quarantined some 70 Mexicans, 26 Canadians and four Americans in the past week, but later released them. So far, according to the World Health Organization, more than 1,000 people have been infected with the virus and 26 have died. All but one of the deaths occurred at the matrix of the outbreak in Mexico.
Shabby and rundown, the Kabul Zoo is a far cry from other zoos in the developed world, but has nevertheless come a long way since it suffered on the front line of Afghanistan's 1992-4 civil war. The zoo attracts up to 10,000 visitors on weekends. In all, it houses 42 species of birds and mammals, 36 types of fish and one very lonely pig.