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#FreeKaavan: Islamabad zoo’s ‘isolated’ elephant may be released if found suffering from mental health problems

He may be shifted to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary

SAMAA | - Posted: Nov 19, 2018 | Last Updated: 3 years ago
Posted: Nov 19, 2018 | Last Updated: 3 years ago

He may be shifted to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary

Kaavan, who has been living an isolated life at Islamabad zoo, may finally get some relief and be released soon. 

“If his medical examination shows that he is suffering medical health problems, and then he will be released,” said Zoo Director Sohail Khan. However, if he is found to be ‘okay’ then he will stay here, he added.

If released, an international organisation, Free The Wild, will shift him to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

Representatives of the organisation have arrived in Islamabad and soon will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the zoo authorities.

An official of the Free The Wild said that this is an important issue for them. “We don’t want any animal to go through what Kawan is feeling,” he remarked.

International organisations expressed their concerns over Kaavan’s health as he has been living in isolation since the last 34 years. His only companion Saheli had died in 2012.

Pakistan was given Kaavan as a diplomatic gift from Sri Lanka. He resides in an enclosure comprising a dilapidated shed and cement pool, which is empty most of the times. Activists have said that Kaavan displays signs of zoochosis, invariant and repetitive behaviour pattern with no apparent function depicted by animals in captivity.

The government and the CDA promised to work to improve his condition but nothing was ever done.


Reporting by Habib Ahmed. 

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  1. Woo  December 30, 2018 11:58 pm/ Reply

    Any expert on elephant behaviour will see that this elephant exhibits signs of mental ill-health, his continuous rocking and swaying his head and upper torso is what captive elephants do to try to relieve chronic stress, much like how a distressed human being sometimes rocks when in grief or extreme stress. The zoo authorities in Islamabad used to say that Kaavan was “dancing” when he was exhibiting such behaviour, either out of ignorance or deliberate untruth. Stress levels in elephants can also be scientifically detected tested with Salivary cortisol assessment. Kaavan has no medical care and no standard welfare tests. Kaavan has not been trained to accept medical treatment. There should be a secure fenced area that the Vet can reach through to do such tests, and Kaavan should be trained to present himself at the fence. Elephants respond to positive reinforcement training (with food treats and trust in his keeper’s instructions). Unfortunately Kaavan, after years of abuse from his keeper, does not trust him – an elephant never forgets. Stress levels can also be tested by analysing cortisol levels in the elephant’s dung, which might be easier in the case of Kaavan.

  2. Jan Hill  May 19, 2019 9:47 am/ Reply

    Man;s cruelty to animals is incomprehensible . Can Geradl Durralls zoo in Jersey do something about this? The Islamabad zoo is a disgrace

  3. Mrs. J. Vogelesang  March 6, 2020 11:02 pm/ Reply

    Please please make an end to this disgrace for the whole world and free the elephant now, let him go to a sanctuary now. Shame on everybody who doesn’t wish this elephant a better life.

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