ISLAMABAD: American singer Cher called on Prime Minister Imran Khan here on Friday and offered her support for furthering green initiatives of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government through her organisation, Free the Wild.

The prime minister appreciated her efforts for highlighting the plight of Kaavan, an elephant at Islamabad’s Marghazar Zoo. Kaavan is to be flown out of Islamabad on Sunday to a sanctuary in Cambodia.

Imran Khan invited the singer to participate in the government’s initiative for the expansion of protected areas, to which she agreed.

“It is a happy moment for all of us that after giving joy to the people of Islamabad for 35 years, Kaavan will now be able to live with other elephants at a sanctuary in Cambodia,” the prime minister observed.

Singer raised her voice for plight of lonely elephant Kaavan through her organisation

Cher praised Prime Minister Imran Khan for his initiatives to ensure a cleaner and greener Pakistan. “Both the ‘protected areas’ and the ‘10 billion tree tsunami’ initiatives of the government are highly commendable as they are nature-based tools for climate mitigation,” the US singer said.

Malik Amin Aslam, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Climate Change, was present during the meeting. He said Kaavan was being sent to Cambodia because he was near his retiring age of 37 years. “In the Cambodian sanctuary he will live with a herd and thus his loneliness will be addressed. Kaavan pleased people in the capital for almost 34 years and now it’s time to go.”

Regarding the fate of Marghazar Zoo, the special assistant said a plan was being worked out to turn the zoo into a sanctuary where animals could live in an open environment and not in cages.

“A new concept of open sanctuaries is being put into practice these days the world over and this will be replicated in Marghazar Zoo as well.”

Malik Aslam said the zoo’s animals were being transferred to other zoos in the country and from now on, only those animals which are native to the region would be kept here.

The government of Sri Lanka had gifted Kaavan to Zain Zia, a daughter of former military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq, when he was only three years old.

Later Saheli, a female, was brought to the zoo, but she died in 2013.

Kaavan was once a favourite of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two sons, Qasim and Sulaiman. Mr Khan himself used to accompany his sons to the zoo frequently.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020

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