Islamabad HC asks govt to shift all animals in the zoo to sanctuaries within a month

The Islamabad high court (HC) on Thursday directed the government to shift all animals in the ill-equipped Islamabad Zoo to sanctuaries within a month, including Kaavan, the elephant whose plight had received international attention in the past, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.

In a 67-page written verdict by Chief Justice Athar Minallah the court dealt with the relocation of a seized brown bear and Kaavan to a sanctuary. It also ordered the government to immediately put a stop to the shooting of stray dogs in a bid to control their population.

Justice Minallah said that prevailing lockdown restrictions in the country have led to untold miseries to animals that are confined to zoos and their plight is worse than humans.

The court said that Kavaan has endured terrible pain through the years and its sufferings should end at the earliest. It directed Kavaan to be moved to a sanctuary either within Pakistan or approach the authorities in Sri Lanka, where it was born to take proper care of the pachyderm. The judge instructed the Pakistani government to ensure the upkeep of other zoo inmates as well.

The court maintained that it is illegal and unethical to confine animals in a zoo, where facilities are few and far between.

Kavaan was one-year-old when it was gifted to the Islamabad Zoo by Sri Lankan authorities in 1985.

Kaavan was temporarily held in chains in 2002 because zookeepers were concerned about its increasingly violent tendencies, but the pachyderm was freed later that year after an outcry.

Kavaan’s mate Saheli, who arrived also from Sri Lanka in 1990, died in 2012, and in 2015 it emerged that Kaavan was regularly being chained for several hours in a day.

American entertainer Cher, who spoke out about Kaavan’s plight for long, tweeted thanking the Pakistani government for the authorities’ bid to take care of the animal and said: “It’s so emotional for us that I have to sit down”.

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