The plight of Kavaan, Islamabad’s lonely elephant, has attracted international support. Singer and popstar Cher is one of Kavaan’s many international benefactors, and recently sent a representative down to Islamabad to see how the elephant was doing. Dawn caught up with Mark Cowne, who met with zoo officials, to ask him what impression he got from his brief visit.
Q: How was your visit to the zoo? Were you able to meet key officials?
A: I thought it’d be difficult to track down the wildlife specialists and the zoo caretaker, but they were very accessible and gave me great insight of the problems they face, not just with Kavaan, but with the zoo in general.
Regrettably, the man we wanted to meet, a member of the Capital Development Authority, was away. I have his telephone number and I will be calling him soon.
Our next step would be to put together a serious proposal as to how they can assist in overcoming the problems that Kavaan and other animals here face. Kavaan is 29 years old. Of those, he has spent 27 in chains. That is a disgusting thing to do to the wild animal.
Q: CDA is planning to bring in a mate for Kavaan. Do you think that is a feasible option?
A: At the moment Kavaan’s enclosure is too small for even one elephant. If I were the Sri Lankan govt, I would refuse to send Islamabad another elephant until they actually change the living conditions for the one they already have. If they can do that, yes it will make an amazing difference for the animal.
Q: In her tweets, Cher described your visit as #OperationIslamabad. Is that over, or is this just the beginning?
A: From our point of view, it’s just beginning. This was the exploratory meeting; now we’ve got the facts, we need to take some action.
Having animals in captivity and mistreating them is appalling and abhorrent. The situation for Kavaan and the other animals in that zoo needs to change. If you can’t afford to look after them they need to be released. If you can afford to look after them, then funding is needed from the government to improve the enclosures up to world standards.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2016