THE PRO ELEPHANT NETWORK OFFICIAL STATEMENT
Kaavan, dubbed ‘the loneliest elephant’ in the world, arrived safely in Siem Reap in Cambodia on the 1st December 2020. There was a collective sigh of relief at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary as moments after he exited his bespoke travelling container he gave himself a dust bath―a very elephant thing to do.
Kaavan has captured an empathetic international audience who have watched in fascination and respect as he explored his new temporary enclosure, while he ate the specially prepared food and for a brief second the world held its collective breath as he touched trunks with his new elephant neighbour.
No one has watched Kaavan’s first steps more closely than the people who have worked so hard to achieve his freedom and the opportunity for a better life.
Indeed, this is the time to celebrate and to appreciate the five years of hard work carried out by various wildlife activists and campaigners in Pakistan and around the world. We congratulate the achievement of singer, Cher, on her success. We acknowledge with deep thanks and admiration, the significance of the legal application to the high court in Pakistan by Kaavan’s lawyer, Owais Awan, a colleague and member of PREN, which ultimately set him free. We are deeply grateful that the courts of Pakistan have recognised Kaavan’s rights as a sentient being.
The scope of the huge project to physically move Kaavan from the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan to a Sanctuary in Cambodia cannot be underestimated.
For months the expert team from Four Paws including, Ingo Schmidinger, a colleague and a member of PREN from iScapes, who worked with Kaavan to gain his trust. We acknowledge the expert care of Dr Amir Khalil from Four Paws and Dr Frank Goertiz from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. Kavaan’s diet was adjusted, he was treated with care and respect by all these experts as he was gently guided to become accustomed to his travelling container.
Over the past few days his farewell party at the zoo and every leg of his incredible journey has played out across the world media―Kaavan’s story is trending on all social media networks. The members of the Pro Elephant Network (PREN), a network of fifty-three specialists, would like to use this unique opportunity to emphasise the reasons why elephants should never be held in captivity.
Kaavan, a male elephant was born in 1985 in Sri Lanka, he was ‘gifted’ to the government of Pakistan and he has been living in the Islamabad `zoo ever since. In 1990 he was joined by Saheli, an elephant from Bangladesh, and after she died in 2012 Kaavan was apparently chained up in his enclosure. The signs of the severe stress and loneliness he has suffered are at times plainly obvious and very difficult to watch.
Elephants have a highly complex, social structure, biology, size and spatial requirements. They are highly intelligent, sentient, and cognitive beings. In the wild elephants can walk 50 miles a day, yet elephants in captivity are often offered enclosures that are less than 500 square meters per elephant, and often chained; they are deprived of their most basic needs such as extended social relationships and freedom of choice. Consequently the welfare of elephants kept in zoos is severely compromised and untenable.
Many captive elephants live completely alone. Zoos must phase out their elephant ‘exhibits’ and refrain from subjecting more elephants to captivity. Those currently held should receive more humane treatment and more appropriate environments.
Members of the Pro Elephant Network believe that the story of Kaavan will highlight the plight of many elephants who live in solitary confinement in zoos around the world and the urgent need to give them better and meaningful lives.
If an adult bull elephant incarcerated in a zoo for decades with his health compromised by the confinement can be successfully transported 4,000 kilometres from Pakistan to Cambodia it means that rescuing and rehabilitating elephants in captivity is definitely doable and achievable. It just requires our will to let them go.
This statement is endorsed by the following members of the Pro Elephant Network
Owais Awan Environmental Lawyer – Islamabad
Dr Harvey Croze Collaborating Researcher, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya
Suparna Baksi-Ganguly President and Co-Founder, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Bangalore, India
Dr Brett Bard Veterinarian, South Africa
Dr Jessica Bell Rizzolo Postdoctoral Researcher, the Conservation Criminology Lab, Dep of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University
Professor David Bilchitz Director, South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public and Human Rights and International Law – South Africa
Dr Gay Bradshaw Director, Kerulos Center for Nonviolence – USA
Megan Carr Founder, Rhinos in Africa – South Africa
Lenin Chisaira Founder, Advocates 4 Earth – Green Law Connect, Zimbabwe
Dr Betsy Coville Wildlife Veterinarian – USA
Nomusa Dube Founder, Zimbabwe Elephant Foundation
Stefania Falcon Co-Founder, Future 4 Wildlife, South Africa
Michele Franko Senior Research Associate – Elephant Care & Wellbeing at the Kerulos Center for Nonviolence United States of America
Chief Stephen Fritz Chief, South Peninsula Khoi Council – South Africa
Dr Marion Garai Elephant Behavior Specialist – South Africa
Rachel Harris Managing Director, Elephant Human Relationship Aid, Namibia
Dr Ross Harvey Environmental Economist, Botswana
Alok Hissarwala Gupta Elephant Specialist, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations
Iris Ho Senior Wildlife Specialist, The Humane Society International
Peter Hodgskin Founder, Hands-off Fernkloof, South Africa
Lynne James Committee member of Mutare SPCA, Zimbabwe
Dr Paula Kahumbu WildlifeDirect, Kenya
Professor Mohan Kharel Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
Nuria Maldonado Ecologist, Environmental Science, Max Plank Institute
Jim Karani Advocate, Lawyers for Animal Protection in Africa
Dr Winnie Kiiru Founder, Conservation Kenya
Rob Laidlaw Executive Director Zoocheck Canada
Kahindi Lekalhaile Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Kenya
Dr Smaragda Law Director, Ban Animal Trading, South Africa
Dr Keith Lindsay Conservation Biologist, Kenya
Giorgio Lombardi Warden Vogelgat Private Nature Reserve, South Africa
Linda Masudze Advocate 4 Earth, Zimbabwe
Varda Mehrotra Executive Director, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations
Mary Morrison Advocate, WildlifeDirect, Kenya
Sharon Pincott Elephant Behavioural Specialist, ex-Hwange, Zimbabwe
Michele Pickover Director, EMS Foundation, South Africa
Dr Yolanda Pretorius SA Wildlife College, Elephant Behavioural Specialist, South Africa
Ingo Schmidinger Elephant Husbandry – iScapes
Dr Jan Schmidt-Burbach Veterinarian, Head of Wildlife Research and Animal Welfare, World Animal Protection International
Antoinette Van de Water Director, Bring the Elephant Home, South Africa
Prof Dan Wylie Rhodes University, South Africa
Julie Woodyer Elephant Captivity – Zoocheck Canada
IMAGE CREDITS: Four Paws International
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