Afghanistan's one and only pig, a resident of Kabul zoo, has been locked away to avoid panic spreading among visitors, despite the World Health Organisation having denied that influenza A (H1N1) can be caught through contact with pigs.
AFP - Afghanistan's only known pig has been taken off display at Kabul Zoo and locked away to avoid panic among visitors who may be worried about swine flu, the zoo's director said Wednesday.
"We put the pig temporarily in his winter house under quarantine because of swine influenza," director Aziz Gul Saqib told AFP.
"Most people don't have much knowledge about swine influenza and seeing a pig, they panic that they will be infected.
"Just to address our visitors' concerns, we have put the pig away from public view for the past two days," he said.
Saqib said he had sent e-mails to other international zoos to find out if they had also put their pigs in quarantine because of health fears.
The WHO has officially backed away from calling the illness swine flu, going instead for influenza A (H1N1) to dispel the impression that it can be caught from eating pork products or through contact with pigs.
According to latest figures from the world body, 1,490 people around the globe have been infected by the flu. In Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, 29 people have died.
But there have been no confirmed cases of swine influenza in Afghanistan and the country does not have any direct flights with nations affected.
The interned animal -- known simply as "Pig" -- was one of two given to Afghanistan by China in 2002, months after the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime, to help reestablish the zoo after it was destroyed during civil war.
However, the other pig -- and their offspring -- were killed in an attack by a bear.
Despite being the only pig, it was not too lonely, Saqib said.
"The pig made friends with a goat and was happy sticking to the goat in the enclosure, where some other goats and deer were on show for visitors," Saqib said.
The zoo is undergoing reconstruction but is basic, with a small variety of animals, most in poor conditions.
It was on one of the frontlines of the 1992-1996 civil war between anti-Soviet factions that destroyed more than half of Kabul and killed up to 80,000 civilians in the city.
It is illegal for Afghans to eat pork in the strictly Islamic country and there are no pig farms or any of the animals in the wild.
Some pork products enter the country for the thousands of foreigners here, including soldiers fighting a Taliban-led insurgency.
Date created : 2009-05-07