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That'll Do Pig, Zoo Tells Afghanistan's Only Porker
By Golnar Motevalli, AlterNet.org
Afghanistan's only known pig trotted out of quarantine on Saturday, two months after he was locked away because of swine flu fears, to bask again in the mud at the Kabul Zoo.
The pig, a curiosity in Muslim Afghanistan where pork and pig products are illegal because they are considered irreligious, was quarantined because visitors to the zoo were worried it could spread the new H1N1 flu strain, commonly known as swine flu.
"Our people did not understand that the disease only passes from person to person and felt that the swine influenza might even be spread from the zoo because we have a pig here," zoo manager Aziz Gul Saqib told Reuters.
"Other zoos abroad told us not to worry ... when people began to realise the disease doesn't come from the pig itself we decided to release the pig," he said.
"Khanzir" -- Pashto for pig -- appeared unperturbed as a team of zoo workers used sticks to gently prod him out of his temporary concrete home into his usual enclosure of lush green shrubs and a mud puddle.
Unsuspecting zoo visitors scattered as Khanzir dashed through the centre of the zoo towards his enclosure.
One visitor, 17-year-old-Razaa, covered his nose and mouth with his t-shirt as the animal trotted past.
"It's a pig, it's the dirtiest thing, it might give me a disease," he said.
Two goats grazed quietly as their portly, pink porcine pal enthusiastically rubbed his snout in a small pool of mud.
Some human onlookers were not so comfortable.
"It is very haram (forbidden) and should not even been looked at. I don't think it should even be in the zoo," said another visitor named Nassim.
But others were intrigued.
"I think it's an interesting animal in terms of the way it looks. You can't really use it for anything ... it is haram and you shouldn't eat it," said 22-year old biology student Fatemeh.
Shabby and run-down, Kabul Zoo suffered badly during Afghanistan's three decades of war but is slowly improving.
Mujahideen fighters ate the deer and rabbits and shot dead the zoo's sole elephant during the 1992-94 civil war. Incoming shells shattered the aquarium.
Khanzir, who is about eight or nine years old according to Saqib, was one of a pair given to the zoo by China in 2002. His partner died about two years ago.
Afghanistan has reported no cases of the H1N1 flu virus.
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