IHC orders govt to expedite relocation of Kaavan, brown bears

Updated 01 Oct 2020

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This photograph taken on June 30, 2016, shows Kaavan next to a moat at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. — AFP/File
This photograph taken on June 30, 2016, shows Kaavan next to a moat at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday ordered the government to expedite the process of relocating Kaavan, Marghazar Zoo’s lone elephant, as well as two Himalayan brown bears to their respective sanctuaries.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah resumed hearing in the matter related to the relocation of Kaavan and the bears.

Dr Amir Khalil, a foreign expert associated with the Four Paws organisation, appeared in court to explain the status of the three animals.

The court noted: “There is no appropriate sanctuary for relocating the two Himalayan brown bears nor the government of Punjab is prepared to accept their responsibility.”

“These living species have already been subjected to unimaginable pain and suffering merely for the purposes of being exhibited to humans. This court has already held that subjecting living beings to unnecessary pain and suffering merely for the entertainment of humans is in violation of the law and disproportionate to the purpose sought to be achieved,” Justice Minallah said, adding: “These living species deserve to be treated with compassion and care.”

There is no appropriate sanctuary for the brown bears, Punjab govt unwilling to accept their responsibility, court says

The chairman of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board informed the court that arrangements are being made to relocate the species to appropriate sanctuaries.

The two Himalayan brown bears have to be relocated at the earliest, while arrangements to move Kaavan to the wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia are expected to be completed soon, he said

Ministry of Climate Change Deputy Director (Law) Syed Ali Raza Zaidi appeared on behalf of the ministry and said that authorisation and no objection certificates to export the aforementioned animals will be issued in due course. He said it would take at least three weeks to do so.

Justice Minallah praised the assistance of Dr Khalil and his NGO, saying: “The affirmation by the present government and the Ministry of Climate Change of the jurisprudence of this court is laudable.”

Justice Minallah expressed regret that “in the past, these living beings have been neglected, which has unnecessarily prolonged their pain and suffering. It is therefore directed that all the concerned authorities shall ensure that the formalities for moving Kaavan and the two brown bears are completed at the earliest so as to put an end to their unimaginable pain and suffering.”

The court adjourned hearing in this matter until Oct 22.

Earlier, the court expressed concern over the manner in which living beings were treated at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad and termed it the “tip of the iceberg”.

The court mentioned that food meant for the helpless inmates of the zoo was reported to be stolen, and noted: “It reflects a mindset, which does not have empathy for vulnerable living creatures caged in deplorable conditions.”

As per the court order, the Friends of Islamabad Zoo and many other young citizens have demonstrated their will to protect nature and those vulnerable living beings who are at the mercy of humans.

Such young committed and public spirited citizens are the true representatives and image of Pakistan, the court said.

Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2020