Musicians pose with Kavaan during his farewell ceremony at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on Wednesday. AFP
Tariq Butt, Correspondent
With music, treats and balloons, friends of Pakistan's only Asian elephant threw a farewell party for the creature ahead of its relocation to Cambodia following years of campaigning by animal rights activists.
Kaavan — the federal capital’s lone elephant set to leave for Cambodia on Nov.29 — has been given a farewell by Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi and First Lady Samina Alvi at Marghazar Zoo. The president visited the zoo after the citizens said goodbye to Kaavan with songs and speeches.
President Arif Alvi and other officials visit Marghazar Zoo.
After living in Islamabad for 35 years, Kaavan will be shifted to a sanctuary in Cambodia following directions by Islamabad High Court (IHC) in view of its improper care due to the absence of a natural habitat at the zoo.
On the occasion, President Alvi said the judgment passed by IHC was in line with the Islamic traditions of caring for animals and keeping them in an environment best suited to them. "Detaching young animals from their mothers is the biggest cause of their emotional distress.”Alvi expressed confidence that Kaavan would find happiness in Cambodia after being surrounded by its companion elephants. He appreciated the efforts of the Ministry of Climate Change and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board for the effective implementation of the IHC order.
Minister for Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, Minister of State Zartaj Gul and Austrian Ambassador Nicolaus Keller were also present.
Dr Amir Khalil, who is leading a team from Four Paws, an Austrian animal rescue organisation, in a briefing 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 its free movement.
Later, Four Paws spokeswoman Marion Lombard said on Nov.29 the preparations for Kaavan’s departure would start at 6am. The elephant will be sedated at 10am and shifted to Nour Khan Air Base by 1pm. "It will be airlifted by a Russian cargo aircraft to Cambodia,” she said.
A wildlife caretaker feeds Kaavan during his farewell ceremony. AFP
Kaavan is set to be flown to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia on Sunday, said Saleem Shaikh, a spokesman for Pakistan's ministry of climate change, following months of veterinary care and a special training regime to habituate the elephant to a huge metal crate he will travel in.
But before flying out, the capital's animal lovers said goodbye, with performances from local bandsm who serenaded Kaavan ahead of the mammoth move.
"We want to wish him a happy retirement," said Marion Lombard, the deputy mission leader for Four Paws International — an animal welfare group that has spearheaded the relocation effort.
A wildlife caretaker takes care of Kaavan during his farewell ceremony. AFP
The Islamabad Zoo, where Kaavan has lived for decades since arriving from Sri Lanka, was decorated with balloons for the occasion and banners wishing the animal well. "We will miss you Kaavan," read one of the signs.
Kaavan's plight was given a boost over the years by American pop icon Cher, who publicly campaigned for the elephant's relocation and called the decision to move him one of the "greatest moments" of her life.
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