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November 30, 2020

Farewell to Kaavan

Editorial

 
November 30, 2020

Kaavan, heartbreakingly known as the ‘world’s loneliest elephant, is finally on his way to Cambodia. Since 2012, 36-year-old Kaavan had been living a depressing solitary existence in Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo — mostly in chains — after having lost his sole companion Saheli who had died of gangrene resulting, according to reports, from poor care. Like Kaavan, she had been gifted to Pakistan by Sri Lanka. After concerns were raised by various animal rights activists, vets and even international personalities, the Islamabad High Court had ruled in May that the animals kept in Marghazar Zoo were held in cruel conditions and the zoo should be closed and had suggested that authorities either find a sanctuary for Kaavan at home or rehome him to his native Sri Lanka which is known for the excellent elephant sanctuaries it runs in several locations or to any other sanctuary. In July, the court approved the plan to move Kaavan to Cambodia. American singer Cher had also taken up Kaavan’s case and last Friday visited Pakistan to see to his relocation plans and to thank the government for helping with it.Kaavan is finally free and we hope he finds the care, love and companionship he needs and deserves. But there are still so many other animals in our zoos that need help and care and just basic humanity. Given the situation we have encountered at all our zoos, every one of them has a need for persons who are acquainted with animals in captivity to be available to help run these zoos — if indeed they must be maintained.

It is unfortunate that we do not have sanctuaries or other safe places where these animals can be given back at least part of the life stolen from them. Such sanctuaries exist in many places around the world and are now also being seen in less developed countries in Asia and Africa as the realisation grows that we cannot treat animals with the kind of cruelty and lack of concern for their well-being that we are still witnessing at home. 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. It is safe to say that none of the zoos in our country play this role. For now, at least Kaavan has been allowed to leave the miserable conditions he was kept in here so he can spend the rest of his life with dignity and safety and with better mental and physical health.