Veterinarian Amir Khalil from Four Paws International, an animal welfare organisation, pets Kavaan in the training crate at Marghazar Zoo on Sunday. — White Star
Veterinarian Amir Khalil from Four Paws International, an animal welfare organisation, pets Kavaan in the training crate at Marghazar Zoo on Sunday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: A container was placed in Kaavan’s enclosure on Friday to train him so that he gets used to the space before he travels to Cambodia.

The lone elephant at Marghazar Zoo will first get used to the 3.6 by 2.7 metre container, which will be used for around two weeks until the actual container arrives, which he will use to travel to an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.

“The Ministry of Climate Change is working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to complete the paperwork. If all goes to plan, Kaavan will take the seven-hour journey to the 25,000 acre elephant sanctuary in Cambodia by the end of November,” the media spokesperson for the Ministry of Climate Change Mohammad Saleem said.

The 45-year-old elephant is being looked after by a team of experts from the Austrian organisation Four Paws, who arrived in August. They are ensuring that Kaavan is keeping good health, helping him lose weight and getting him ready for the journey.

Two brown Himalayan bears also being acquainted with their cages before being transported to Jordan

When they arrived, Four Paws said, Kaavan was obese, terribly lonely and in need of foot care, which the zoo could not provide because of the lack of facilities.

Kaavan is now waiting for the Pakistani government to issue an export permit for him to fly out.

This is the only document required before he leaves for the sanctuary in Cambodia. All the arrangements will be made by air. It is an expensive proposition, roughly $350,000 to $400,000.

The bill is being footed by the famous British musician, Cher, Mr Saleem said.

For now, the elephant is reluctant to enter the custom-built container and the Four Paws team is likely to take another two weeks to train him to use his temporary home.

“The ministry is also planning a sending off ceremony and Cher is expected to arrive to be part of it,” Mr Saleem told Dawn.

According to the ministry, the zoo’s two brown Himalayan bears are also getting acquainted with their cages, which they will be transported in to a sanctuary in Jordan.

The bears will be flown back to Islamabad once they have fully recovered and their enclosures at the Islamabad zoo are ready.

Both Himalayan brown bears suffer from psychological problems after living in substandard enclosures, with the female undergoing major surgery due to her critical condition.

This was also the reason sanctuaries within the country refused to take them in.

Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020