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ISLAMABAD: Kaavan - the capital's lone elephant who is set to leave for Cambodia on November 29, was given a farewell by President Dr Arif Alvi along with First Lady Samina Alvi, who especially visited the Marghzar Zoo here on Tuesday.

Living in Islamabad for 35 years, Kaavan will be shifted to a sanctuary in Cambodia following the orders of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in view of his improper

care due to absence of natural habitat at the capital's zoo.

Speaking on the occasion, President Alvi said that the outstanding judgment passed by the IHC Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, was in line with the Islamic traditions of caring for animals and keeping them in an environment best suited to them.

The president said that detaching young animals from their mothers was the biggest cause of their emotional distress.

The president expressed confidence that Kaavan would find happiness in Cambodia after being surrounded by companion elephants.

President Alvi appreciated the efforts of the Ministry of Climate Change and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board in effective implementation of the IHC's order on relocation of Kaavan.

He stressed the need for raising awareness among masses about animal rights and environmental care.

The president called for implementation of Pakistan Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1890) that provided a good basis for the protection of animals.

He emphasized on speeding-up the process of re-establishment of Islamabad Zoo for the children and citizens of Islamabad.

The president and First Lady were shown a cage for Kaavan especially prepared to airlift him.

Amir Khalil, a vet from Austrian animal rescue organisation Four Paws, in a briefing to President Alvi said Kaavan would be initially kept for a month at the Cambodian sanctuary, to be later shifted to a 25,000 acre forest area for his free movement.

He said his organisation would move a request through Climate Change Ministry to the Civil Aviation Authority for a direct air route of the aircraft carrying Kaavan to cross over Sri Lanka instead of India.

Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, State Minister Zartaj Gul, and Austrian Ambassador Nicolaus Keller were also present.

Later, Four Paws spokeswoman Marion Lombard said that on November 29, the preparations for Kaavan's departure would start at 6am, with sedation at 10am and shifting to Nur Khan air base by 1pm.

He will be airlifted by a Russian cargo aircraft Ilyushin Il-76 to Cambodia.

Equally popular name among children and adults, Kaavan, the male Asian elephant born in Sri Lanka in 1985 was gifted by

Sri Lankan government to the then president of Pakistan.

An elephant named Saheli was brought from Bangladesh in 1990, who remained as Kaavan's partner until her death in 2012.

Kaavan was temporarily chained by zookeepers in 2002 for his aggressive behavior.

The animal rights activists have been campaigning to free Kaavan and to treat the animals in a better way.

On May 21, 2020, the IHC ordered that all the animals, especially Kaavan, be immediately relocated to safe sanctuaries.

After Kaavan, two bears will also be relocated to Jordan on December 6, completing the process of relocation of all animals at the Zoo.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020