ISLAMABAD: A representative of the American pop icon Cher met with Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz on Tuesday to discuss proposals to shift Kavaan, the lone elephant at Marghazar Zoo, as well as to improve the zoo itself.

Mark Cowne, Cher’s representative, also visited the zoo last year to see how Kavaan was doing.

During the meeting, Mr Aziz and other concerned officers discussed various proposals regarding the zoo and Kavaan. The mayor told Mr Cowne that facilities for zoo animals had been upgraded, and all the animals were received much better treatment than they were a year ago.

Speaking to Dawn, Mr Cowne, who introduced himself as a long time friend of Cher’s, said she has formed a charitable foundation called Free The Wild, which aims to protect wild animals in captivity.

“Cher says that she believes in freedom for Kavaan, because the elephant has spent too long in a bad and damaging situation, Cher says please give the lone elephant his freedom and his dignity by setting him free,” Mr Cowne told Dawn after the meeting.

Mr Cowne was told by the mayor and other officials that previous employees accused of mistreating the elephant had been removed and replaced with new individuals, who were better trained and had more expertise.

The mayor told him facilities for the elephant, including feed, the quality of his shed and medication, had been improved to significant degree. “We are continuously working to improve conditions for Kavaan,” the mayor said, adding that the international community should be satisfied that the elephant is now in safer hands.

Mr Cowne said during the meeting that the elephant, now over 30, should be freed and the civic authority should bring a pair of elephants after expanding the elephant exclosure.

In response, Capital Development Authority officials told him the authority would take the proposals into consideration, and will make a decision based on what is in Kaavan’s best interest. According to the CDA, Mr Cowne said that the improvement in the elephant’s health was encouraging.

“It is satisfying to see that conditions around Kavaan have significantly improved. Our organisation extends its full cooperation for assistance in kind of technical and professional expertise,” a CDA spokesperson quoted Mr Cowne as saying.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2017

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