An ambitious $ 7.5 million renovation plan for a dilapidated and mournful zoo in Islamabad that used to house “Kavan”, dubbed “the most lonely elephant in the world,” was announced and came under international criticism for its poor facilities and poor animal welfare. It closed its doors last December.
Animal rights activists launched a campaign against this zoo for its mistreatment of “Kavan”, 35, the last remaining Asian elephant in the country who has lived alone since his companion died eight years ago.
“Kavan” was transferred to Cambodia late last year, after his ordeal caught the attention of the American singer Cher, who helped raise money for the transfer of this elephant.
While Kavan now enjoys the company of dozens of comrades in northern Cambodia, this elephant did not enjoy peace of mind during his final years in Pakistan.
The cement barns where the animals were kept were cramped and devoid of any natural vegetation. Also, many animals have developed stereotypical behavior, such as moving their head from side to side for hours.
The workers at the zoo, which opened in 1978, were unable to care for the animals properly.
Its condition was so disastrous that, last year, a Supreme Court judge ordered it closed and all the animals removed.
However, this did not prevent a tragedy, as two lions died while workers were trying to get them out of their barns by lighting straw.
And the Pakistani Ministry of Climate Change is in charge of rehabilitating the zoo, with a plan to convert it into an animal welfare center, with much better conditions.
“We have temporarily transferred about 380 animals, including monkeys, antelopes, zebras and bears, to various reserves inside and outside Pakistan,” said Waqar Zakaria of the Committee for the Protection of Wildlife in Islamabad.
“They will be returned, not to remain in captivity, but to live in a national park in a natural environment,” he added.
Maltreatment of animals in zoos or those used for entertainment is common in Pakistan, but behaviors are beginning to change.
The WWF in Pakistan is also pressing the government to pass new laws targeting illegal poachers who regularly hunt birds, monkeys and even black bears, according to the fund’s president, Rina Saeed.
But the departure of “Kavan” to a better place caused sadness for Imran Hussain, his last tame at the zoo.
Hussein was appointed to train “Kavan” last year when his suffering came to light, but soon a close bond developed between him and his friend.
“I feel something breaks inside of me when I come to the park and see his cage is empty,” he told AFP.
“He used to greet me with a loud bingo and raise his proboscis every morning,” he added. He used to throw water at me to express his happiness … or his anger. ”
Nevertheless, he knows that Kavan is in a better place now.
Hussein added, “I watched video clips of Kavan looking very happy … I pray to God that he will live long.”
The park, which opened in 1978, was in such disastrous condition that a judge ordered its closure and all the animals removed.
“We transported 380 animals, including monkeys, gazelles, zebras and bears, to various reserves inside and outside Pakistan.”
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