Pakistan’s loneliest elephant gets a new home

Kaavan is heading to a sanctuary where he can live freely with other elephants. The Islamabad High Court…
Kaavan the elephant is being freed

Kaavan is heading to a sanctuary where he can live freely with other elephants.

The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan has just decided the fate of “Pakistan’s loneliest elephant”. This sad title belongs to a Sri Lankan elephant named Kaavan. He has lived at the Islamabad Zoo in poor conditions for 35 years.

But he won’t be there much longer: the court has ordered his freedom.

Kaavan will be moving from the Islamabad Zoo to a Cambodian sanctuary. Across the world, activists have been campaigning for the elephant’s release for years. Upwards of 400,000 people signed a petition demanding his freedom back when he had been in captivity for 28 years.

The Born Free Foundation’s Chris Draper says the court order is good news, but it is only half the battle:

Any sanctuary must be a genuine sanctuary, where he will enjoy space, appropriate care, the company of elephants as appropriate and a life free from chaining.

Chris Draper

Also, the move to Cambodia will likely be stressful for Kaavan, so this needs to be carefully considered.

A Sri Lankan biologist named Shermin de Silva agrees. She told conservation news site Mongabay that Kaavan’s introduction to a sanctuary with other elephants “should be done with sensitivity, care and caution.” Preferably, the move should take Kaavan’s personality into account and begin gradually, “allowing the animals to get to know one another with restricted contact and limits on how much interaction they have at first.”

There are challenges to introducing a new elephant, but a social group would be so much better for Kaavan than his current isolation.

Kaavan was particularly lonely in the poor conditions of the zoo because elephants live as social animals. In the wild, they form herds. Kaavan had a mate, Saheli, but she died in 2012. This led to Kaavan “showing signs of boredom, lethargy, stress, and, later, aggression, leading his keepers to chain him briefly.”

At the Cambodian sanctuary, there are already dozens of rescued elephants roaming freely. Kaavan will be able to join them.

Article source: Mongabay

Featured image source: Friends of the Islamabad Zoo

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