A medical team was ready to leave for Pakistan to examine a 32-year-old elephant named Kaavan, who was said to be suffering from psychological trauma following the death of its female partner, Zoological Department Director General Dhammika Malsinghe said yesterday.
Speaking to Daily Mirror she said the department had come across a news item published in the Pakistani website which said that the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation was seeking medical assistance for the elephant which was sent there from Sri Lanka in 1985.
Accordingly, the Zoological Department had decided to send a Veterinary Surgeon, Assistant Director, Curator and a mahout to examine the elephant.
“If the Foreign Ministry requests us to send a team we are ready,” she said.
According to Islamabad media, the zoo authorities in Islamabad were of the opinion that the lonely elephant, Kaavan, was suffering from a mental illness. “The elephant had become the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by music icon Cher, but efforts to improve the pachyderm’s lot appear limited,” the report said.
The Islamabad wildlife administration had also considering sending the animal to Cambodia.
The report says:
“But his behaviour -- including signs of distress such as bobbing his head repeatedly demonstrates "a kind of mental illness", said Safwan Shahab Ahmad, Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation.
Ahmad, who has conducted detailed research on Kaavan since the 1990s, also slammed the lack of trained experts to take care of the elephant, saying that he needs more space and a pen to better adapted to his natural habitat.
Activists say he has insufficient shelter from Islamabad’s searing summer temperatures, which can rise to above 40 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit).
Asian elephants can roam thousands of kilometres through deep tropical and subtropical forests, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In contrast, Kaavan’s 90 by 140 metre (100 by 150 yard) pen has almost no foliage, and only limited shade is provided. "Give Kaavan deep bushes and artificial showering and you will see him enjoying the environment," said Ahmad, who has written several research papers on the elephant.
Ahmad was backed by mammalogy expert Dr Wasim Ahmad Khan, who said captivity "will shorten his life if we don’t take care of his environment".
Arriving as a one-year-old in 1985 from Sri Lanka, Kaavan was temporarily held in chains in 2002 because zoo-keepers were concerned about increasingly violent tendencies, but he was freed later that year after an outcry.
His mate Saheli, who arrived also from Sri Lanka in 1990, died in 2012, and last year it emerged that Kaavan was regularly being chained once again-- for several hours a day.
Scores of people signed a petition sent to zoo authorities and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in protest, and the zoo told AFP during a visit earlier this month that the elephant is no longer being restrained.
Kaavan’s keeper maintains that the pachyderm is not being mistreated-but just longs for company. (Chaturanga Pradeep)