ISLAMABAD: Over 27,000 animal lovers from across the globe have so far signed an online petition demanding the capital’s civic agency to unchain and free an elephant kept at the city zoo under deplorable conditions.
The 31-year-old Asian elephant, “Kaavan”, has been 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. Kaavan was brought from Sri Lanka in 1985 when he was one years 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.
Animal lovers and rights activists have voiced series concerns over the state-of-affairs at the Islamabad Zoo, officially known as Marghazar Zoo.
The issue first caught attention of an American national of Pakistani-origin Zareen Khan, who was on a visit to the federal capital a couple of weeks ago.
Seeing the miserable condition of the poor elephant, she decided to raise her voice for the animal by starting an online campaign.
Khan wrote in the petition she was astonished and sad to see the elephant standing at one place throughout the 45 minutes she spent at the zoo.
“His legs were all chained up. He was moving his head from left to right continuously and not once I saw that he stopped…. the first thought that came to my mind was that he was drugged,” Khan narrated what she saw.
She said that the elephant kept standing at the same place without moving his legs and the only thing that was moving in his body was his head, left to right.
“It was a pitiful sight,” she wrote, demanding animal lovers to urge the authorities to phase out their elephant exhibit and send Kaavan to an elephant sanctuary abroad.
A little relief for Kaavan
Seeing the mounting pressure and a series of emails and telephone calls received by the city managers in this connection, on Thursday the zoo management removed chains from two of Kaavan’s legs.
“This is cruel beyond words. No freedom, no family, no compassion, absolutely nothing to make his life happy. This is totally disgraceful,” commented Vanessa Marshall from the United Kingdom on the petition.
A Facebook page run by the CDA remained abuzz with a number of posts in favour of Kaavan and against the management of the CDA.
On Thursday, as a response the CDA management uploaded two videos of the elephant showing his unchained legs and the elephant taking rounds of the enclosure with his handler. However, a visit to the zoo made by The Express Tribune in the evening showed that two of his legs were still chained.
“The situation is very wrongly portrayed in the social media. The male elephant is healthy, taking its food and bath daily,” said an official statement released by the CDA on social media.
The statement claimed that the chaining of elephant in captivity for a brief time was a practice and part of management by many zoos around the world.
The statement assured that “the administration is trying its best to completely stop the chaining practices, which have been adopted for the reason mentioned above during day time.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2015.