ISLAMABAD: A Senate panel recommended on Monday to shift Kaavan, the 32-year-old behaviourally-challenged sole elephant in Islamabad Zoo, to an accredited elephant sanctuary abroad.
The Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat discussed in detail the unending plight of the elephant, and reached to a conclusion that he would be retired for rehabilitation.
The matter was referred to the committee by chairman of the upper house of Parliament Mian Raza Rabbani.
The Senate took up the matter following national and international outcry over the living conditions the elephant has been kept in.
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However, Federal Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CAD) Tariq Fazl Chaudhry, who is currently making efforts to outsource the affairs of the Islamabad Zoo to some private firm, opposed the idea.
At one point, he even took the animal rights activists by surprise when he claimed Kaavan was healthy and not suffering any psychological problem.
Chaudhry was of the view that a female elephant would be brought for Kavaan soon from Sri Lanka and that Islamabad Zoo would be developed on international standards.
“Tenders have been published for the purpose,” he informed.
However, Senator Tahir Mashhadi of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) dubbed the claim as frivolous, saying the animal would die until the government completes the project by the year 2025.
The decision of the committee has widely been hailed by the animal rights experts, who attended the proceedings of the committee on special invitation.
“This is a huge step forward for animal welfare in Pakistan. Now, we hope that Kaavan will finally be free after 30 years of neglect and isolation,” said Samar Khan, a US national of Pakistani-origin who first caught attention of the issue during her visit to Islamabad Zoo last year.
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Khan had launched an e-petition, demanding the authorities to unchain and free Kavaan. The petition has so far secured over 400,000 signatures from across the globe.
The 32-year-old Asian elephant is kept in solitary confinement and chained around his legs since his long-term companion Saheli – a female elephant gifted by the government of Bangladesh in early 90s to Pakistan – died in May 2012. He was brought from Sri Lanka in 1985 when he was a year old.
The elephant is thought to have become depressed after the death of Saheli. To cater to the issue, the zoo management thought it better to chain all his four legs instead of providing the elephant medical treatment or to find him a companion.
However, when the issue caught the attention of local and foreign media, the zoo management removed chains from the legs. But due to cruel practice, the elephant became mentally challenged.
Few days ago, Kavaan became violent after he broke the wired boundary of his enclosure.
Senator Samina Abid informed the committee that international organisations working for animal rights had already booked a place of Kavaan in a sanctuary located in Myanmar.
Senator Abid said a number of organisations had assured to bear transportation cost as well.
Many known celebrities, including American singer and actress Cher have been part of the campaign aimed to free Kavaan.
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“A country can be judged by the way it treats its animals. This is a milestone case for animal welfare in Pakistan,” said Faryal Gouhar. Gauhar is spearheading the campaign to free Kaavan in Pakistan. She along with her friends held a number of protest demonstrations over the issue in front of the Zoo.
Another activist, Sunny Jamil said “after the freedom of Kaavan now Pakistan has sent a message to the world about welfare of animals, especially the captive animals.”
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