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May 24, 2020

Freedom for Kaavan

Editorial

 
May 24, 2020

The campaign, which has continued for years to free the elephant Kaavan, gifted to Pakistan by Sri Lanka in 1985 and kept chained at the Islamabad Zoo for the last 28 years, has ended. The Islamabad High Court, in an important order which could help highlight the rights of species which are not human, has ordered that the management of the Margazar Zoo which has 858 non-human inmates be handed over to the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board and taken away from the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation. Justice Athar Minallah, who joined together three petitions relating to the situation of animals began his 67-page judgment with a quote from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) stating that animals too had rights. He has also ordered that an understanding of this be included in the Islamiat texts taught to schoolchildren.

Finally, Kavaan, the elephant who has been held in solitary confinement after losing his sole companion Saheli in 2012, may find a better life. Saheli died of gangrene resulting, according to reports, from poor care when she was a mere 17 years old in human terms. Like Kaavan, she had been gifted to Pakistan by Sri Lanka. The court has suggested that authorities either find a sanctuary for Kaavan at home – which may prove difficult – or rehome him to his native Sri Lanka which is known for the excellent elephant sanctuaries it runs in several locations. Kaavan deserves this after his years of misery. In addition to Kavaan, the court has also ordered the release of a brown bear to a sanctuary and stopped the killing of stray dogs by the municipality. These are humane decisions. We hope they will be recognized and appreciated as such.

Justice Minallah also noted that none of the authorities who had held control of the Margazar Zoo appeared to have any interest in ensuring the welfare of the animals. Strangely enough, the Ministry of Climate Change had been granted management of the zoo for some time, although it is unclear what its role could be in handling what is a specialized task. Zoos have become controversial around the world. But the very best zoos can play a useful role in sensitively educating people about animals they will almost certainly never encounter in real life. None of the zoos in our country play this role. It would be best to close down all these places and grant the animals a better life.