Kaavan the Elephant to Relocate to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary This Year

Media representatives take video and photographs of Elephant Kaavan as it stands behind a fence at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on July 18, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

The mistreated elephant will finally leave Islamabad Zoo and trade Pakistan for Cambodia later this year following a court order handed down over the weekend.

PHNOM PENH--Following a court order handed down on July 18, the sole elephant of Islamabad Zoo in Pakistan will be relocated to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary in September 2020. The 35-year-old Asian elephant named Kaavan’s arrival was confirmed on July 20 by representatives of the sanctuary. 

“We are very excited that Kaavan is finally coming here,” Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary’s Pedro Vella said in an email.

The High Court in Islamabad found that Kaavan had been mistreated in Islamabad’s zoo and was ordered to be freed in May 2020, but the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic presented challenges to finding a suitable destination for relocation. 

The fight for Kaavan’s freedom began five years ago and two groups involved have worked tirelessly during this time in a relentless pursuit of Kaavan’s freedom, Vella explained. 

He added that his organization had been reviewed as a possible sanctuary for Kaavan’s retirement following the court’s decision.  

“Our sanctuary was reviewed at the beginning and was determined to be a suitable release location for his retirement by many experts in the field, so we have been expecting, hoping and waiting for this news for a while now,” he said, but noted that there was not a specific date for Kaavan’s arrival beyond September 2020.

Kaavan arrived in Pakistan in 1985 from Sri Lanka when he was just one year old. The Islamabad Zoo denies any wrongdoing or mistreatment of the animal, insisting that Kaavan was merely distressed following the death of his mate Saheli in 2012. Since then Kaavan has been the last elephant left in the zoo. 

The court’s decision on Saturday (July 18) to transfer the mistreated Kaavan to Cambodia was made following a campaign by animal rights activists and also the pop star Cher to demand for his release. The petition campaign for his release gathered more than 400,000 supports. 


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