Three decades of captivity; Board sits down for Kaavan release to sanctuary

By: Asem Mustafa Awan

It was none other than the interest of Islamabad High Court Chief Justice, Honourable Justice, Justice Athar Minallah whose orders removed the shackles from Kaavan and now the animal is free.

The happy yearling landed in Islamabad from Sri Lanka over 30 years ago and now goes to Elephant Sanctuary in Cambodia with mental health issues.

The release for Kaavan campaign has a long history and the creature suffered a great deal of abuse at the hand of its handlers in the past.

This photograph taken on June 30, 2016, shows Pakistani elephant Kaavan next to a moat at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. / AFP PHOTO

It is late but its is still not too late the creature will to survive reigned supreme and Kaavan is leaving with his ‘Ivory Tusks’ . Plans were there, his survival has overshadowed all who harboured an ill will against the creature for years.

It may be mentioned here that petition for Kaavan was taken years ago but was not pursued and the creature suffered a needless pain for nearly a decade.

Now the question arise all the experts who were called in to assist the court, how long will they take for the release of the creature. Who will accompany Kaavan is another debate that is likely to cause further delay. Hopefully the honorable Justice will look in to this as well as Kaavan the lone elephant at his release is accompanied by an entourage that was never there for him when he needed them most.

Agency adds: Earlier an eight-member experts committee has recommended that the 25,000-acre wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia could be a suitable area for relocation and retirement of elephant Kavaan of the Islamabad Marghzar Zoo after giving joy to thousands of visiting children over last several years.

The Committee has argued that the wildlife sanctuary already houses elephants and is equipped with experts, who have relocated and rehabilitated over 80 elephants so far would be the best choice, said Muhammad Saleem, deputy director and media focal person of the MoCC.  

The Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) had constituted on June 9 an eight-member committee comprising of world renowned wildlife experts for relocation of the elephant Kavaan and other animals of the Marghzar Zoo to some other Wildlife sanctuaries.

Complying with the direction of the Islamabad High Court, Chief Justice Athar Minallah, IWMB notified the experts committee, comprising its WWF-Pakistan’s senior director programme Pakistan as its chairman and biodiversity specialist Z. B. Mirza as co-chairman.

The Committee’s other members include Khyber Pakhtukhwa Wildlife Chief Conservator Dr Mohsin Farooq, Islamabad Zoo veterinary officer Dr Bilal Khilji, Dr Masoodul Haq of Bahria Zoo, Dr Tom Channarong Srisa of Ard Save the Elephant Foundation, Ms Nilanga Jaysinghe of IUCN, co-founder of Save the Elephant Foundation Derek Thompsan and representatives from MoCC as well as the Islamabad Zoo.

A meeting of IWMB, convened on July 13, reviewed various options for safe relocation or retirement of the elephant to comply with the Islamabad High Court’s judgment issued on May 21.

The meeting participants were of the view that the re-location options for the elephant Kavaan must be considered after examining all parameters, such as the health of the animal, the logistics, suitability and facilities at the proposed re-location site and the agreement with the new site authorities amongst others.”

However, after elaborate examination of the various viable options the Board has decided, based on expert committee’s recommendations, to relocate/retire Kavaan to a sanctuary in Cambodia under required due diligence and agreements, said the ministry official. 

He said that it is pertinent to mention here that Advisor to Prime Minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam, had earlier hailed the decision of the Islamabad High Court and had acknowledged that under the circumstances it is sad step to take but the right one for the betterment of the Kavaan.

The adviser, however, has stressed that any proposal in this regard for relocation and retirement of the elephant must be backed by adequate research and consideration of all factors, the official Muhammad Saleem highlighted. 

He added that Malik Amin Aslam had also assured that Ministry of Climate Change would fully back and support all decisions relating to animals wellbeing.

The advisor had also highlighted that the prime minister had issued strong directions to the Ministry of Climate Change to provide all required support for implementation of the Court’s decisions, according to the official.

Meanwhile, Advisor Malik Amin Aslam tasked the Ministry officials concerned to extend support for future rethinking and revamping of the Islamabad Zoo into a more animal friendly enclave, which provides environment for adequate protection of animals rather than animal exhibit, the ministry official Mr. Saleem said. 

The climate change media focal person Muhammad Saleem said that the prime minister’s advisor, has already directed IWMB officials to strictly ensure all-out care and diligence for the well-being of animals while undertaking the re-locations in the light of Islamabad High Court’s judgment, so that unnecessary haste does not harm animals in any way in future.