aitullah sra

islamabad - The story of 32-year-old behaviourally challenged male Asian elephant kept at Islamabad Zoo is sad and narrates how badly the authorities in Pakistan treat captive animals.

Kavaan was chained in 2012, after his female partner Sehali died due to alleged negligence of her handlers. She had contracted an infection in one nail of her leg that later affected her whole body due to absence of timely treatment.

Death of Sehali left Kavaan under stress and he started developing strange behaviour. Finding it easy, Kavaan’s handlers started chaining him from all his four legs.

Chains around his legs lasted until recently when following outcry over the issue, the zoo management unchained him.

“Years of chaining adversely impacted his behaviour. Physiologically, Kavaan is devastated,” said Faryal Gauhar, an animal rights campaigner. Gauhar supports the idea of retiring Kavaan to some animal sanctuary so that he could spend rest of his life in peace.

Kavaan’s handler Muhammad Jalal says the elephant’s enclosure is congested and not enough to keep such a big animal. Due to the poor living conditions, Jalal said, Kavaan has become aggressive and does not allow anyone to come close to him.

The living conditions for other animals and birds kept at the zoo are not much different than that of Kavaan.

The CDA’s zoo department record suggests that currently there are 16 animals and 42 different bird species kept at the zoo. It includes ducks, swans, wolfs, deer, monkeys, crocodiles, eagles, owls, peacocks, fox, jackals, zebra and different species of birds.

Recently, a pair of Asian lions has also been brought into the zoo. Due to new addition of these lions, the attention of animal lovers has increased in the zoo.

A day long visit to the zoo revealed that facilities provided inside the cages of the animals and birds are insufficient, while a number of enclosures are empty as the zoo management seems uninterested to add more animals to the facility.

In recent past, the zoo officials have been accused of committing corruption in the animal feed. An inquiry into the issue is currently under way at the capital’s civic agency.

Nearly one million people visit Islamabad Zoo annually, said the CDA Member Environment Sanaullah Aman.

He said recently the Sri Lankan government had been requested to provide a female elephant to the zoo.

Aman was of the view that the CDA has been focusing on the improvement of living conditions of the animals.

A four-year-old visitor Aziz Ahmed told The Nation when he visited the zoo last year, there were no lions and this time he came to see lions recently brought to the zoo.

Another visitor Abdul Qayyum, 11, said he was literally disappointed as there was no arrangement of camel ride in the zoo. The fourth grader Qayyum said he would not come again to visit the zoo.

A male ostrich died last month due to alleged negligence of zoo keepers.

The CDA record shows that in 2006 about two dozen animals and birds died of different reasons, in 2008 some 13 animals and 16 birds died, while in 2009, 13 animals and 11 birds died.

All this happened due to lack of basic medical facilities and poor arrangements by the management.

On the other hand, the Capital Development Authority seems unable to execute a plan involving remodelling and expansion of the existing zoo. Under the plan, the zoo was supposed to be extended from current 20 acres to 80 acres of land, and an addition of over 100 animal species with construction of 70 new animal enclosures.

–The writer is a freelance contributor.