Kaavan, a mentally tormented elephant confined to a small pen in Islamabad Zoo for almost three decades, has driven a rare animal rights campaign in Pakistan.
International, alongside local animal rights organisations, launched a campaign last year after reports surfaced about zookeepers who were beating the elephant and denying it food.
An online petition has garnered well over 280,000 signatures and has created small protests outside zoo gates.
Kaavan’s plight has taken a new level recently when Raza Rabbani, chairman of the Pakistani senate, called on authorities to transfer the elephant to a sanctuary.
The campaign has attracted international attention, including celebrities like Cher.
Elephants are mostly outgoing by nature, though males can becomes highly aggressive when the are separated from the herd.
Kaavan was brought to Islamabad Zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s. He grew unruly and aggressive after a female elephant in his cage died in 2012.
Activists say the zookeepers responded to his aggressions by chaining his legs, beating him, and confining him to an enclosure that is far too small for an elephant his size.
Kaavan is Rarely Happy
The caretaker for the 36-year-old elephant said, “I have hardly seen him happy.”
As the keeper spoke to the press, Kaavan swayed back and forth, a sign of mental torment throughout his life.
During an interview and photo session, Kaavan became so enraged he hurled a brick at onlookers, nearly striking a press cameraman.
Animal rights groups have called on the country to relocate Kaavan to an animal sanctuary in Myanmar. A petition has been launched which covers the cost of the process.
So far the zoo has refused to relocate the deranged animal, instead it is working on bringing in another female elephant.
Zookeepers and the Capital Development Authority in charge of Kaavan’s well being have adamantly denied the charges of torture and abuse.