AbZOOlutely Not** or The Controversy of Zoos & Others Keeping Elephants in Captivity

A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 3: What a Captive Elephant Needs – Kaavan’s Influential Friends

Human compassion for a captive elephant. It just all makes sense. Possibilities are endless when kind humans intervene.

Islamabad Wildlife Management Board Chairman Dr. Anis Ur Rahman:  “…You see, uh, what you have to realize is that elephants belong, like I just mentioned, they belong to their own environment, okay, they are not subservient to us (man points to himself). This is an imagination that human beings have. This is uh, uh, a very low quality stupid thinking that you take more animals out of the wild and you make one elephant happy, who is also trapped in a cage. (RE: rescuing Kaavan while replacing him with another baby elephant captured from the wild)

So this is… it does not make any sense to me. Animals belong where (unintelligible) meant them to belong, their own home. This is not his home (man pointing in the direction of Kaavan’s zoo enclosure) that is his home (pointing to outside the zoo, to freedom). And to get another one out of his own environment again and to put him here, ahhh, it is going to be torture and I think that is an absolutely fallacy, it is a wrong thought… (RE: capturing another baby elephant from the wild, as they captured Kaavan in Sri Lanka, and bringing it to Islamabad Zoo)

I, uh, would have met him when he was a very, uh, small, uh, boy, when he was a very small bull, uh, when my children would come here at (unintelligible)  which was maybe about thirty, thirty-five years ago… But in between my children grew up so I did not see him for many years, uh, I did not come here until the zoo was officially, uh, given to us as part of our duty and my job to take care of him and send him to a sanctuary that was a duty given to me by the Islamabad Court. And, uh, so for the last, uh, maybe three months we are very very actively involved in the… all the… and the whole crew… and in the animals at the zoo.


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So he is a… actually that is not really true. (RE: reports that Kaavan was an unstable, aggressive animal) He is a very very gentle…he is a very sweet animal. He is a very friendly animal when you are friendly with him so long as you keep your distance from him. Uh, as you know, uh, he is a … he can be very dangerous also.

Uh, so, so he is friendly with anybody who looks after him, talks to him, feeds him …  The reasons are… elephants… they are very social animals and as you can see, uh, when he is with, uh, with our staff, when he is with, uh, with, uh, Dr. Ahmid… He just loves to be very close to people. But it is completely unnatural for him to be close to people. He is supposed to be close to elephants. So there are elephants waiting for him. There are female elephants (unintelligible) waiting for him.

So, uh, when he goes the first thing is that he is going to be in a weather that is comfortable for him. You know this weather is… at night now the temperature is about 10 degrees. This is very unusual, this is very cold for him.   The first thing is the temperature is not right, #1. # 2 is He is going to be in the company of other elephants. That is how he is naturally supposed to be.

So for the first two, three months it is going to be a very slow process, how he gets to to meet them and to interact with them and to make sure it is a friendly interaction. It is a full process of quarantining and (unintelligible) and then he will be able to…


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Now he is a huge elephant that is five and a half ton of animal… has only had got one canal (Kaavan’s old zoo habitat in Pakistan) to live in, okay, which is even small for somebody of my size with… so small compared to the elephant. So when he goes he is going to have 25,000 acres to roam in. He is going to have a forest. He will not have people who will give him one apple or give him one (unintelligible) or give him one piece of…  he will have a forest… that is where he belongs.

So this is our responsibility to retire him. He has given duty to Islamabad (Zoo) for the last 35 years. It is our duty to look after him that he goes to an appropriate place where he will live the rest of his life in peace and tranquility.”

Transcribed from “Kaavan Elephant Farewell | Kaavan is No More for Pakistan” YouTube video by WAVES TV (1)


“Kaavan quickly gained confidence in us and made great progress in a short time… Without the support of the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, the Pakistani authorities and the local community, American businessman (American syndicated columnist and philanthropist (3)) Eric S. Margolis as well as our partners from Free The Wild (8), this relocation (to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (6)) would have not been possible.”        Dr. Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS (7) veterinarian and head of the complex rescue mission (a mission that’s cost about $400,000 (3))” (5)


“Before embarking on the last leg of the journey to the sanctuary, Buddhist monks gave Kaavan bananas and watermelon. They chanted prayers and sprinkled holy water on his crate to bless him.” (4)




Timecodes: Preparing for Kaavan’s Departure 008 – 02:05; Kaavan Sedation at Islamabad Zoo  02:06 – 08: 59; Kaavan Lifted Onto Truck 09:00 – 09:56;  Transport to Airport/Loading Onto Plane 09:57 – 13:18   Don’t Miss: at 07:25 & 08:01 Dr Amir Khalil is singing ‘My Way’ to Kaavan to calm the bull elephant in his transport crate before he leaves the zoo for good…  CapeTalk (2)


See also: A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 4: Ride Along With Kaavan as He is Transported From Airport to Sanctuary



(1)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06OSSZZBl_8  Kaavan Elephant Farewell | Kaavan is No More for Pakistan”     WAVES TV CH

(2) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNOS-94Fulo “Kaavan the elephant being prepared for his departure to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary” CapeTalk CH

(3)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2h2psTcR30E World’s loneliest elephant’ arrives safely in Cambodia”

(4)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_5gOg-xzeo “Kaavan, The world’s loneliness elephant detail story | Kaavan meets new friend in Sanctuary”

(5)  https://www.four-paws.org/our-stories/press-releases/from-the-loneliest-to-the-luckiest-elephant-kaavan-takes-off-for-cambodia

(6)   https://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.com/

(7)   https://www.four-paws.org/ or https://www.four-paws.us/

(8)   https://www.freethewild.org/

(9)   https://twitter.com/ammarkhans

(10) https://www.arabnews.pk/node/1759566/pakistan


Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (6)

Four Paws (7)

Free the Wild (8)

Images: Tweet 17 July 2020 Kaavan Passport to Freedom (9); Spokesman for Kaavan the elephant & Islamabad Zoo Front Gate by Arab News (10)


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Elephant Spoken Here twitter @ESHelephants


P.S. About the Category AbZOOlutely Not** or The Controversy of Zoos & Others Keeping Elephants in Captivity (**A disclaimer about this category …elephants in captivity). While there are some Zoos & others that demonstrate exemplary methods of elephant care, unfortunately, they do not represent the “lion’s share”. ) And this category does not include the elephant sanctuary, true/reputable elephant sanctuaries, of course.

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One thought on “A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 3: What a Captive Elephant Needs – Kaavan’s Influential Friends

  1. Pingback: A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 2: Ele Facts; Kaavan & Saheli, At Least They Had Each Other For a Little While | Elephant Spoken Here

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