Kavaan Wins A Chance At Life As MoCC Loses Out Initiative
The Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) has finally lost the initiative. Some days ago, its spokesperson told a media outlet that transporting Kavaan, the only Asian elephant in Pakistan and the loneliest one, abroad would bring a bad name to the country. On Monday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) named Dr Amir Khalil, the leader of Four Paws team, a friend of court and left the matter of shifting the beast abroad on his advice.
Dr Khalil is a sensible person and has already told me during his interview that Kavaan is fit to be shifted abroad.
Kavaan and two bears are the only animals left in the ill-fated Islamabad’s Murghazar Zoo. It once had nearly 1000 animals and birds. The zoo was not running in an ideal condition but things were not as bad as they turned in the last couple of years.
The Islamabad mayor has been interested in doing anything but what is desired of him. Being head of the Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI), he was responsible for keeping the animals in liveable conditions but he was more interested in doing media stunts and politics. As a result, the condition of the animals worsened and citizen groups took the matter to court.
In not even a single hearing did the mayor accept his responsibility, always offering excuses upon excuses instead. The court then went on to ask tough questions about fixing the responsibility.
To improve things, MoCC took the zoo back from MCI and placed it under Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB). The board was already burdened with looking after wildlife at the National Park area. Its chairman Dr Anis ur Rehman told me that the Board was handed a little over 350 animals and birds and he is responsible only for what has been passed on to him.
He also said that the experts’ committee has recommended that Kavaan should be shifted abroad. He said that he is all for sending the bears to their sanctuary in Jordan.
The bears were in a very bad state when the Four Paws team reached Pakistan over a month ago. Not even their teeth were intact.
Breaking teeth of bears is a common practice in Pakistan as some people bring them to streets for amusing children and other put them to fighting dogs. These fights are the worst of animal cruelty.
No bears sanctuary in Pakistan including, the ones in Ghora Gali, Nathiya Gali and Chakwal, agreed to keep these bears as they feared that these animals were too sick to survive and any mishap would bring a bad name to them.
Unfortunately, the MoCC spokesperson thinks that sending Kavaan abroad will bring a bad name to the country. No one, however, bothered to think that keeping these animals in unliveable conditions would also bring a bad name to us.
Many of the animals in the zoo died in mysterious ways. A lions’ couple was killed in the process of shifting them to a sanctuary when a fire was set in their cage to move them. Four cubs of the same couple were killed in the zoo in 2017 when the administration gave them powdered milk and bad food. Scores of other animals were killed due to lack of care. Hundreds have gone missing.
Are all these tragedies not enough to bring us a bad name?
The MoCC should have done the right thing by agreeing to the experts’ advice of sending Kavaan to Cambodia where he could live the rest of his life with other elephants. Having to do it now on court orders has only made its precious reputation only more vulnerable to being bruised.
Hassan Shahzad teaches media at public and private universities and regularly writes for Islamabad pages of The News. He holds a PhD in media studies.