“Pakistan’s loneliest elephant,” Kaavan, will finally know what freedom feels like after decades in captivity, as the Islamabad High Court ordered the Pakistani Government to implement its plan to relocate him to a sanctuary within the next week.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah ruled that animals have basic natural rights, which includes living in an environment conducive to their social and physiological needs. He ordered Islamabad Wildlife Management Board officials, the climate change secretary, and the Islamabad High Commissioner to meet on July 13 to devise a final strategy for transporting the animals to their sanctuaries, with another hearing scheduled for July 18.
This move follows a landmark court decision on May 21 ordering Kaavan’s release from Marghazar Zoo, where he has languished in confinement since 1985. Several other captive animals will also be freed under the order, which deemed that their living conditions subjected them to unnecessary pain and suffering.
Originally from Sri Lanka, Kaavan arrived in Pakistan at just one-year-old, as a gift to General Zia-ul-Haq, the country’s former dictator. He spent decades in an inadequate enclosure with a dirty pond and very little grass, often chained up due to alleged aggressive tendencies, likely stemming from captivity-related psychological problems. His health further declined in 2012 when his cage-mate passed away, leaving him completely alone.
Kaavan’s upcoming release marks an important victory in the fight for animal rights and reminds us of the countless other captive elephants who all deserve their freedom.