Kavaan The Elephant Trained Ahead Of Cambodian Move

Islamabad: A transport crate weighing 6.37 tons has been placed in the Marghazar Zoo of Islamabad for the training purposes of Pakistan’s only Asian elephant, Kaavan, before he is moved to Cambodia’s elephants’ sanctuary later this month.

For a peaceful flight, that is approximately 8-hours from Islamabad to Phnom Penh, it is necessary the pachyderm is habituated with the crate and keeps his cool.

According to Amir Khalil, Director of Project of the Four Paws International, for next two weeks, Kaavan will be trained to walk into and out of the crate. “We are putting his favourite food—vegetarian fodder, flatbreads, sugarcanes, watermelons, apples and bananas inside the crate—to coax him to enter and eat them”, he said.

Most challenging, risky project

Four Paws is engaged in a number of international projects for protection and safety of endangered animals and Kaavan’s relocation is perhaps the most challenging and risky project it has ever come across, said Dr. Khalil.

Besides food, he also plays soothing lyrics of Frank Sinatra, particularly “My Way” to calm down the animal.

According to animals’ rights activists, it is no less than a miracle to befriend Kaavan that was earlier called a ‘killer’ elephant. In the past he had killed an employee of the zoo.

Later after the death of his female companion Saheli back in 2012, Kaavan turned aggressive and scarcely let anyone come near him. He was even chained by the zoo administration.

Kaavan’s plight drew international condemnation and also highlighted the poor state of the Islamabad zoo where conditions were so bad that Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Athar Minallah in May this year ordered evacuation of all the animals from the zoo.

Following the IHC ruling and worldwide outcry against keeping Kaavan in chains, Four Paws in collaboration with Free the Wild initiated the project of relocation of Kaavan and the US popular singer and activist Cher is also supporting this cause.

First step of a long journey

While talking to Gulf News on Saturday, Dr. Khalil said bringing the crate to the elephant’s enclosure and making him step inside it was indeed an achievement. “This is the first step but as you know a long journey always starts from the first step. Now from onward, we shall take him daily in and out of the crate twice a day so that he could not feel unusual when we take him to the airport”, he said.

The 3.6-metre high, 2.5-metre wide, 6.5-metre long and 6.37 tons heavy crate was not initially welcomed by Kaavan. He was not ready to accept an intruder in his ‘kingdom’ despite the fact the local artists had painted pictures of elephants and animals on it and tried their best to give the crate a ‘cool’ look.

On the first day, Kaavan damaged the door of the crate and pushed it repeatedly making a wild effort to bring it to the ground.

A large number of vets, animal rights activists, media persons, Ambassador of Austria Nicolas Keller and his spouse Ursula Keller had arrived at the zoo to see the arrival of the crate and Kaavan’s reaction to it.

They found it quite interesting and appealing how the Austrian vet has established a bond of friendship with Kaavan. We cannot help appreciating the amazing work of Dr. Khalil and his team and we wish the task [of relocation of Kaavan to Cambodia] will be completed smoothly, they said.


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