American singer Cher checks up on Kaavan, her adopted elephant in Islamabad

American singer Cher checks up on Kaavan, her adopted elephant in Islamabad

She sent her representative Mark Cowne to push the Islamabad zoo to better Kaavan's living conditions
17 Jun, 2016

The plight of Kavaan, Islamabad’s lonely elephant, has attracted international support.

Singer and popstar Cher is one of Kavaan’s many international benefactors, and recently sent a representative down to Islamabad to see how the elephant was doing. Dawn caught up with Mark Cowne, who met with zoo officials, to ask him what impression he got from his brief visit.

Q: How was your visit to the zoo? Were you able to meet key officials?

A: I thought it’d be difficult to track down the wildlife specialists and the zoo caretaker, but they were very accessible and gave me great insight of the problems they face, not just with Kavaan, but with the zoo in general.

Regrettably, the man we wanted to meet, a member of the Capital Development Authority, was away. I have his telephone number and I will be calling him soon.

Our next step would be to put together a serious proposal as to how they can assist in overcoming the problems that Kavaan and other animals here face. Kavaan is 29 years old. Of those, he has spent 27 in chains. That is a disgusting thing to do to the wild animal.

Q: CDA is planning to bring in a mate for Kavaan. Do you think that is a feasible option?

A: At the moment Kavaan’s enclosure is too small for even one elephant. If I were the Sri Lankan govt, I would refuse to send Islamabad another elephant until they actually change the living conditions for the one they already have. If they can do that, yes it will make an amazing difference for the animal.

Q: In her tweets, Cher described your visit as #OperationIslamabad. Is that over, or is this just the beginning?

A: From our point of view, it’s just beginning. This was the exploratory meeting; now we’ve got the facts, we need to take some action.

Having animals in captivity and mistreating them is appalling and abhorrent. The situation for Kavaan and the other animals in that zoo needs to change. If you can’t afford to look after them they need to be released. If you can afford to look after them, then funding is needed from the government to improve the enclosures up to world standards.

Originally published in Dawn, June 17th, 2016


Ahmar Qureshi Jun 17, 2016 11:10am
Cher must sing new song "Do You Believe in Wild-Life after Love" :-) nice job!
watson Jun 17, 2016 11:22am
Mark is right if the government cannot afford to maintain the Zoo as per international standards then the animals should be released to a country which can afford to maintain a Zoo.This goes for all Zoo`s across the country.
Qamar Valliani Jun 17, 2016 11:22am
If the adnministration can't take care of Zoos in the country, they should closedown all the Zoos to help animals from sufferings.
Jawaid Islam Jun 17, 2016 11:37am
Great initiative by Cher...I think they also need to look at the Safari Park, Karachi elephants..I believe I have seen them in chains. Safari park is a big area, easily a huge tract can be reserved for the chained elephants.
CALCUTTA MAN Jun 17, 2016 11:48am
After reading this, I looked up Kaavan and came across this 2015 petition on Sickening attitude from zoo officials.
farhan kermani Jun 17, 2016 12:06pm
Zoos are the best possible way to bring people closer to the wild, although the mere view of anials being confined in an iota of the land they normally bring in their daily use is sickening and i never appreciate it, but, if we have a zoo at all we must make the best out of it and Islamabad Zoo has a natural terrain for animals. Make it a huge attraction, invest in the zoo and increase your local GDP.
Najaf Jun 17, 2016 12:48pm
Finally someone cares, ironically though it is someone not from Pakistan!
parveez shafi Jun 17, 2016 01:06pm
We can not look after anything apart from money. Our elderly, our youth, our children, our nation as a whole is not safe, apart from few currupt poltations and the rich. As for the animals in general are concerned, they are not a priority.
Kabeer Jun 17, 2016 01:27pm
So cute thanks Cher I have been your fan since years you are truly an icon
ABC Jun 17, 2016 03:12pm
Pakistani authorities should have transferred Kaavan to other zoo so that he doesn't feel lonely or better option was to send him to Sri Lanka. Btw wasn't there any Sri Lankan mahout to take care of him?
AMER IQBAL Jun 17, 2016 03:56pm
Carey Jun 17, 2016 06:15pm
@Najaf In fact, there are many people in Pakistan who have been working hard trying to expose the truth about zoo animals for years. And the enormous suffering of the animals has had media coverage. Some brave journalists continue to do this. But, people have also been vilified, been the target of hate born out of deliberate misinformation. I am grateful that this has reached the ears of the Senate. A report by the Standing Cmt of the Senate is being drawn up about Islamabad zoo and presented to Chairman Sen Raza Rabbani in 3 weeks.
j lees Jun 17, 2016 08:16pm
please send kaavan to sanctuary. the zoo and its personnel do not have the funds and knowledge and infrastructure to care for 1 elephant let alone 2. there are better options than waiting years for this zoo and caretakers to get their act together. let them commit to animals by building a sanctuary first.
kp Jun 18, 2016 01:09am
Shame on our politicians and celebrities.
Mian Umer Inam Jun 18, 2016 01:16am
#Kaavan needs freedoms. For God sake send him back to sanctuary!!
Zoom Jun 18, 2016 01:51am
Thank you Cher. Things will be better soon.God made you messiah for poor lonely sick Kavaan.
Nazia Jun 18, 2016 05:48am
What a terrible thing to do to a free wild animal. Poor Kavaan was locked up in chains for 27 long years, kept in solitary confinement; What a shame; No wonder Pakistan as so many problems; Allah curse is upon us. Let's take the opportunity to release these animals; provide proper spaces for the live, provide them with mates so they are not kept alone in confinement. God Bless Cher, Mark Cowne and thousands who signed the petition to get Kavaan Free. Locking up a poor animal in chains for 27 years. Very bad, very very bad.
Judy Salerno Jun 19, 2016 07:53am
Cher, I am most thankful for your participation. I feel we have a chance with freeing Kavaan for the first time in a long time. We will do our part and and feel very thankful to have you on board. We love you for so many reasons!!!