Monday, June 1, 2020

Islamabad Court orders relocation of Paki elephant


But for the elephant news, I may not be reading about Cher !  - Cher's hit song with Sonny, “I got you Babe,” will not be out of place in her love story with the loneliest elephant in Islamabad. Her tweet “I wish to thank the Pakistani government'' (heart emoji) late on Wednesday night went viral.  Cher ( Cherilyn Sarkisian)  is an American singer, actress and television personality.  Cher gained popularity in 1965 as one-half of the folk rock husband-wife duo Sonny & Cher after their song "I Got You Babe" peaked at number one on the US and UK charts. By the end of 1967, they had sold 40 million records worldwide and had become, according to Time magazine, rock's "it" couple.

Archaeologists have discovered the nearly complete skeleton of an enormous, now-extinct elephant that lived about 300,000 years ago in what is now the northern German town of Schöningen, according to new research. Although this elephant — the Eurasian straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) —died likely of old age, meat-eaters promptly devoured it; bite marks on its bones suggest that carnivores feasted on the dead beast, and flint flakes and bone tools found near the elephant indicate that humans scavenged whatever was left, the researchers said.

Elephants are interesting animals. Their size is awesome, and their strength is incredible. They are intelligent and affectionate beings. Amazingly, even with their large size, they can walk silently. You might not even notice them passing by!  A baby elephant is called a calf. It weighs about 250 pounds at birth and stands about three feet tall. Calves can't see very well at first, but they can recognize their mothers by touch, scent, and sound.  Baby elephants stay very close to their mothers for the first couple of months. The calves drink their mother's milk for about two years, sometimes longer. They drink up to 3 gallons of milk a day! At about four months old, they also begin eating some plants, like adult elephants, but they continue to need as much milk from their mother. They keep drinking milk for up to ten years!

The news is - caravans of elephants and mahouts have embarked on a long journey through the hills and forests of northern Thailand. They would have to walk for days before reaching their native villages in remote areas along the Thai-Myanmar border inhabited by the Karen – an ethnic group with centuries-old tradition of keeping and taming elephants. It is a journey of uncertainty – both for the tribesmen and their animals left unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nobody knows if they will be able to return to their old workplace, as dozens of elephant camps which once attracted coachloads of tourists all year round are now shut due to the international travel ban. “Tourists disappeared when the COVID-19 outbreak started. Everything shut down. Everybody was shocked but not as much as the elephants' owners,” said Sangdeaun ‘Lek’ Chailert, Thailand’s leading animal activist and president of the Save Elephant Foundation.

The news is about an elephant in Pakistan. Read that Pakistan has no elephant habitat and has presence of the pachyderm in its zoo.  Pak Court has ordered the release of Kaavan the 'mentally tormented' bull elephant to a sanctuary after 35 years of being beaten and kept in a tiny pen in Pakistani zoo.  An online petition for Kaavan the elephant had gained over 280,000 signatures.

Media reports suggest that local and international animal rights organizations launched a campaign to free Kaavan the elephant a year ago after reports that zookeepers were beating him and denying him food. The Islamabad High Court  ordered wildlife officials to consult with Sri Lanka, where the Asian elephant came from, to find him a 'suitable sanctuary' within 30 days. The plight of Kaavan, a mentally tormented bull elephant confined to a small pen in an Islamabad Zoo for nearly three decades, has galvanized a rare animal rights campaign in Pakistan

Animal rights groups called on Pakistan to relocate Kaavan to an animal sanctuary. But the Capital Development Authority, the local agency in charge of managing the zoo, had refused.   'The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary, in or outside the country,' the court ordered, criticising the zoo for failing to meet the animal's needs for the past three decades.  The court has also ordered dozens of other animals - including brown bears, lions and birds - to be relocated temporarily while the zoo improves its standards.

Elephants are gregarious by nature, and males can become aggressive when they are separated from the herd. Kaavan, who was brought to the zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, grew even more unruly when the female elephant he was being kept with died in 2012. Activists say caretakers responded to his aggression by chaining his legs, beating him and confining him to an enclosure that was far too small.  An activist,  who visits the zoo regularly, says the pen can reach 40 degrees Celsius (100 F) in the summer, and that the elephant is given little water to cool down. 'It is cruel,' he said.  The caretaker of the elephant too was quoted as saying -   'I have hardly seen him happy.'  

The Capital Development Authority, the local agency in charge of managing the zoo, had originally refused the transfer - perhaps fearing it would lose visitors. Instead, it had worked on bringing in another female elephant, but that ran to issues of permits, imports, costs and logistics.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
23.5.2020.

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