Islamabad’s Only Elephant, Kaavan, Finally Free to Go to Cambodian Sanctuary

In a monumental decision taken by the Islamabad High Court, after spending 35 long years at Islamabad Zoo, the city’s beloved yet lonely elephant, Kaavan, is finally free to go to an animal sanctuary. Experts have chosen the 25,000-acre wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia as Kaavan’s new home.

The elephant won its freedom from Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 21. The court ordered to relocate Kaavan to a suitable sanctuary as well as to shift other animals too due to the poor state of Marghazar Zoo, which is detrimental to animal’s physical and mental health. The decision was widely hailed by global animal rights activists.

After the court verdict, Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) Chairman Dr. Anis Rehman constituted an eight-member committee tasked with suggesting suitable sanctuaries for the relocation of Kavaan and other animals.

After assessing all possible locations, the committee, headed by Rab Nawaz, IWMB member and Senior Director WWF Pakistan, proposed that the Elephant Sanctuary Cambodia equipped with experts who have relocated and rehabilitated over 80 elephants “would be the best choice.” The sanctuary was selected after evaluating animal safety factors such as the health of the animal, the logistics, suitability and facilities at the proposed relocation site.

The Advisor to Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, said the ministry fully supports all decisions relating to animals’ wellbeing under the directives issued by Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Ministry would now focus on revamping Islamabad Zoo into a more animal-friendly enclave in the light of court’s judgment.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah on May 21 had ordered the release of the caged animals noting, “Neither are there adequate facilities nor resources to provide living conditions that would meet the behavioural, social and physiological needs of the animals.”

Animal Lovers Hail Kaavan’s Freedom

Animal lovers across Pakistan especially those Islamabad citizens who have been at the forefront for the past few years to find Kaavan a new home were delighted to hear the news.

“Finally, Kaavan is going to Cambodia! I can’t express how happy I am for Kaavan. Thank you to all the beautiful souls across the globe who raised their voice and showed their support especially IWMB and advocate Owais Awan” said Ammar Pervaiz, one of the key members of Friends of Islamabad Zoo – a group of citizens concerned about animal welfare at the zoo. Ammar and other members of the group have been raising awareness about the adverse condition of animals at the zoo with regular visits and surveys and enrichment workshops.

Mr Aslam said Kaavan is a herd animal and should not be alone, adding: “The place for Kaavan is a sanctuary where he can roam free.” The news of Kaavan’s release and move to Cambodia has reached the famous American singer Cher, who has offered to take care of his transportation costs. It’s beautiful to see the world coming together to help an animal in need.

“The Islamabad zoo will not have any more elephants after Kaavan,” Mr Aslam said at a press conference.

“We are going to completely overhaul this caged zoo. Animals will have more space to roam in enclosures. Funds have been approved after the Ministry of Climate Change took control of the zoo nine months ago. We will be developing a new plan with international consultants to transform it into a safari zoo and a place of learning. The zoo will be home to mostly indigenous species. This place will be turned into a place of joy and education,” he added.

The only thing that needs to be done now before Kaavan is off to the wildlife sanctuary is his health assessment. A team of experts is expected to arrive to examine his health and declare him fit to travel.

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