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We understand that Sri Lanka has been approached through its Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan to supply 1 or 2 juvenile elephants for Islamabad (formerly Marghazar) Zoo, one of which is to be a mate for Kaavan the 37 year old Asian male. Also that you have been requested to send a veterinarian to Islamabad zoo to do a medical check on Kaavan.
We don’t know if you are aware of the very serious reputation that Islamabad zoo has and I would be grateful if you would take this in to consideration.
In relation to the care of the elephants, Kaavan and the female elephant named Saheli who died aged just 22 in 2012, there has been a great deal of media coverage detailing the abuse and neglect of both elephants. This media coverage is in Pakistani national media and media internationally including in the media in Sri Lanka.
Sending new elephants there would be a disaster, the zoo has made little or no investment in either staff training or in the elephant enclosure in the 32 years since Sri Lanka donated the elephant to Pakistan in 1985. The result of this is that Kaavan has for many years exhibited stereotypic behaviour, has dangerously unhealthy feet and the death of the previous female elephant. A leg wound believed to have been caused by the chains attached to her legs became infected. Several times the leg wound was reported to zoo authorities by concerned zoo visitors as she began to limp. It was either never treated correctly, or it was ignored, either way the end result was that she collapsed and eventually died from an easily treatable wound.
The male elephant Kaavan who was already exhibiting stereotypic behaviours showed very clear signs of being traumatized by her death, and the Zoo authorities and Mahouts responded by chaining him in the dilapidated shed by all 4 legs for 9 months. The reason they gave for this was that he was a dangerous elephant.
It is very well documented on film and in the media and the international NGO Four Paws International who observed him at the zoo in December 2016 reported that he had severe stereotypic behaviour. They also recommended that a fence be built to allow medical attention in protected contact, and that security fencing between the elephant and the general public needed improvement. Neither of these recommendations has been carried out, nor their offer to send their own staff to train the zoo staff.
The international community became involved in his case in 2015 due to a campaign on social media including a petition signed by 405,000 people around the world that they eventually unchained this elephant, and dismissed his previous Mahouts. His new Mahouts do, I am sure try their best and are kinder to him, but they are highly constrained by the zoo authorities and the local Government in Islamabad. It is a miracle that he has survived in conditions that are highly inadequate, detrimental to his health, and having had completely inadequate medical care. The zoos in Pakistan are not regulated by any laws pertaining to the health and welfare for captive animals and are not members of any international zoo authority.
There have been and continue to be multiple deaths of animals in Islamabad zoo, as well as at the other zoos, and the wildlife parks in Pakistan, documented and in the public domain.
I humbly request, and am sure that you will be sympathetic to the fact that sending a juvenile female in to Kaavans enclosure could be very dangerous for the female due to the completely inadequate facilities the zoo has. It would also have negative repercussions on Sri Lanka’s reputation.
I also understand that currently Sri Lanka is not exporting elephants to international zoos while the Nandi case is still in the courts
I would be very grateful if you would get back to me at your earliest convenience.
With kind regards,
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