- An online petition for Kaavan the elephant had gained over 280,000 signatures
- He was brought to the Islamabad zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s
- Caretakers responded to his aggression by chaining his legs and beating him
- Animal rights groups have launched petitions to cover the costs of moving him
A court has ordered the release of a ‘mentally ill’ bull elephant to a sanctuary after 35 years suffering in a Pakistani zoo.
Local and international animal rights organizations launched a campaign to free Kaavan the elephant a year ago after reports that zookeepers were beating him and denying him food.
The Islamabad High Court today ordered wildlife officials to consult with Sri Lanka, where the Asian elephant came from, to find him a ‘suitable sanctuary’ within 30 days.
An online petition gained over 280,000 signatures and small protests were held outside Marghazar Zoo.
The campaign also attracted international attention, with rights groups and celebrities, including the singer Cher, calling for the elephant to be moved to a more humane facility.
After hearing the news of his release today, Cher said: ‘This is one of the greatest moments of my life.’The plight of Kaavan, a mentally tormented bull elephant confined to a small pen in an Islamabad Zoo for nearly three decades, has galvanized a rare animal rights campaign in PakistanPakistani caretaker Mohammad Jalal sits next to Kaavan the elephant at Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad Animal rights groups called on Pakistan to relocate Kaavan to an animal sanctuary. But the Capital Development Authority, the local agency in charge of managing the zoo, had refused
‘The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary, in or outside the country,’ the court ordered, criticising the zoo for failing to meet the animal’s needs for the past three decades.
The court has also ordered dozens of other animals – including brown bears, lions and birds – to be relocated temporarily while the zoo improves its standards.
Elephants are gregarious by nature, and males can become aggressive when they are separated from the herd.
Kaavan, who was brought to the zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, grew even more unruly when the female elephant he was being kept with died in 2012.
Activists say caretakers responded to his aggression by chaining his legs, beating him and confining him to an enclosure that was far too small.
Sunny Jamil, an activist at the Help Welfare Organization – a local animal rights group – said the mangled ceiling fan in the roof of the enclosure testifies to its insufficient height.
Jamil, who visits the zoo regularly, says the pen can reach 40 degrees Celsius (100 F) in the summer, and that the elephant is given little water to cool down. ‘It is cruel,’ he said.Kaavan, who was brought to the zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, grew more unruly when the female elephant he was being kept with died in 2012 Activists say caretakers have responded to his aggression by chaining his legs, beating him, and confining him to an enclosure that is far too small
Mohammad Jalal, the caretaker for the 36-year-old elephant, said: ‘I have hardly seen him happy.’
Kaavan swayed back and forth as Jalal spoke – a sign of mental torment – and at one point hurled a brick at onlookers.
Animal rights groups have launched petitions to cover the costs of the move to the sanctuary.
The Capital Development Authority, the local agency in charge of managing the zoo, had originally refused the transfer – perhaps fearing it would lose visitors.
Instead, it had worked on bringing in another female elephant, said Sanaullah Aman, an official with the agency.
Aman denied the allegations of abuse and said ‘every possible step’ was being taken for Kaavan’s wellbeing, without elaborating.Mohammad Jalal, the caretaker for the 36-year-old elephant, said: ‘I have hardly seen him happy’