Sri Lankan elephant in Islamabad Zoo continues to suffer

A lonely elephant in the Islamabad Zoo known as Kaavan, a gift to former dictator General Zia-ul-Haq from the Sri Lankan Government, is living in miserable conditions due to which he has developed serious psychological problems, Pakistan Today reported.

The Islamabad Zoo’s isolated elephant has become the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by music icon Cher, but unfortunately, no steps has been taken to improve the situation.

Well-placed sources told Pakistan Today that the 33-year-old Asian elephant is suffering from “mental illness” due to which it could be seen bobbing his head repeatedly.

They said that Kaavan is in great distress since the death of his mate Saheli in 2012, who was gifted to Pakistan by Bangladesh back in 1990.

Additionally, no attention has been given to his diet and medication for years.

The sources said that various NGOs working on animals raised questions about Kavaan’s solidarity confinement and limited shade and offered to shift him abroad to be released in a safe sanctuary.

Arriving as a one-year-old in 1985 from Sri Lanka, Kaavan was temporarily held in chains in 2002 due to his fierce tendencies and dislike of being captivated but was freed later following public outcry.

Sources further said that when the issue of his bad condition and isolation was raised by various organisations, the zoo management approached Sri Lanka for a new mate for Kaavan but no progress was made in this regard.

They said that Kavaan’s the situation could only improve if he was shifted to a better place, preferably not in Pakistan.

Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan was really concerned about the Kaavan’s condition and even tweeted, “Kaavan the elephant has been treated cruelly. Unshackling him is not enough. He should be in a proper sanctuary, not the ill-equipped Islamabad zoo.”

Hence, it was expected that the incumbent government led by Imran Khan might take notice of the innocent elephant’s miserable condition but the current political situation will certainly not allow him any priority.

It is pertinent to mention here that in July 2016, Standing Committee Chairman Senator Talha Mehmood and other members decided that Kavaan was better off in a sanctuary abroad.

Shortly afterwards, a sanctuary in Cambodia offered their services to fly the animal to the South East Asian country without any charge and help in its rehabilitation.

However, the then Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Federal Minister Tariq Fazl Chaudhry opposed the idea of shifting the elephant abroad.

A senior official of CADD said that NGOs wanted to shift Kaarvan to safe a sanctuary located in Myanmar; however how they could be trusted, as the elephant is worth millions of rupees.

The official said that the NGOs wanted to get him freed on the ground that animals should not be kept in cages; however, he opined that it is impossible to ban the practice of keeping animals in zoos and they should, in fact, be kept there as every person cannot see them in their natural habitat.

He claimed that the incumbent management was really concerned and steps were being taken to improve his diet and medication and considerable improvement would be witnessed in his condition soon.

About bobbing his head repeatedly, he said that he developed his habit long ago and denied that Kavaan is facing any major health problem.

On the other hand, head bobbing is a huge tell of distress in an elephant according to major scientific researches.

In response to a question about bringing a female mate to fill Kavaan’s loneliness, the official said that both the elephants were gifts from friendly countries and elephants are worth millions of rupees so it is out of the question. (Colombo Gazette)

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