This week, we continue to outline the events and actions taken by Free The Wild, surrounding Kaavan's attempted release from Islamabad Zoo.
With our last blog covering five years of his story, this article aims to cover what's been going on since the start of this year, 2019. Please see below:
In January, Free The Wild representatives initiated talks with a team of lawyers in Pakistan, to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This was to be delivered to the Mayor of Islamabad and Islamabad Zoo's board of directors. The MoU details the offer previously put forward by Cher and Free The Wild, requesting the safe release of Kaavan.
In February, the initial draft of the MoU was delivered to Free The Wild's offices. It was then amended and returned to the legal representatives in Pakistan for final changes.
The Memorandum of Understanding was finalised in March and then sent to both Islamabad Zoo's board of directors and the mayor's offices, neither of which acknowledged the document nor agreed to sign it.
In April, with the introduction of two new Trustees, Free The Wild continued to push for clarification over the MoU and asked once again that it be signed, to which the Zoo's management did not respond.
Throughout May and June, Free The Wild continued to request the MoU to be acknowledged, but to no avail. At the same time, we created our first charity fundraiser, as an auction, in a bid to raise funds for Kaavan's translocation.
In July, with Islamabad Zoo's management consistently making national headlines about the zoo's deplorable conditions, Islamabad High Court relinquished control of the zoo to the Ministry of Climate Change. This was enacted in the hope that new management would be better equipped to care for and cater to the animals residing there. This change was said to be temporary, lasting until the end of August when the situation would then be reassessed.
In August, Free The Wild received an acknowledgement of the MoU from the Ministry of Climate Change, stating: "I am pleased to acknowledge the deep interest and commitment shown by 'Free The Wild' charity in rehabilitating the conditions of wild animals in captivity. Minister of State for Climate Change has shown pleasure on receipt of letter expressing interest in improving the condition of animals by 'Free The Wild'. It is expressed with deep regret that you have faced difficulties in your previous attempts to collaborate with Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad. However, it is apprised that now Ministry of Climate Change is committed to ameliorate the condition of Islamabad Zoo and would like to make it a modal Zoo of Pakistan. In this regard your proposal is appreciable and Ministry of Climate Change welcomes you to work on rehabilitation of animals and capacity building of Zoo staff along with Ministry of Climate Change. We are examining your proposed MoU and shall come back to you as early as possible."
Having heard no response to our emails following this line of communication, we called in to speak with the Ministry's representative, whom we were told was on holiday at the time with no apparent return date. This representative has never come back to us, despite Free The Wild leaving messages with his office and having sent emails requesting more information about their and/or the mayor's intentions to sign the MoU.
At the same time, Free The Wild initiated our first online fundraiser through Facebook and we continue to do so on a weekly basis.
By the end of the month and following the Ministry of Climate Change's initial deadline, Islamabad Zoo's original management was not re-instated.
In September, Free The Wild's legal team attended court hearings in Pakistan to discuss the state of the Zoo and Kaavan's release. Their proposals were taken on board by Ministry representatives but have since not been enforced or acted upon by the Mayor, the Ministry of Climate Change nor the zoo's board of directors.
With mounting pressure from the Pakistan-Kashmir conflict, the Ministry's representatives became even more quiet than usual, and continued to ignore Free The Wild's requests for the MoU to be signed and returned, along with ignoring the proposals put forward by our legal team in Pakistan.
Towards the end of the same month, Free The Wild was informed of a potentially dangerous situation surrounding the fate of Kaavan and a Sun Bear housed at Islamabad Zoo. We were told over Facebook that threats to the animals lives were being discussed behind closed doors and that if action wasn't taken immediately, both the bear and Kaavan's lives would come to an end. As such, we actioned two of Free The Wild's investigators in Pakistan to attend the Zoo and determine the legitimacy of these claims. Thankfully, we found no evidence to suggest these accusations to be true.
In October and in line with Cher's tour, Zoobs Ansari kindly put himself forward to create a number of specialist pieces to auction on Kaavan's behalf. We will keep you updated about the details, but in the meantime, please do take a look at Zoobs' website, here.
Last week, the Mayor's office reached out to us and informed us that the Mayor is reviewing and editing the MoU, following which he will send it to our legal team in Pakistan.
Moving forward, Free The Wild hopes that the Pakistan-Kashmir conflicts are amicably resolved so that those involved can continue living in peace. We also hope the Mayor and the Ministry can soon refocus their attention on the situation surrounding Islamabad Zoo (and a number of other zoos in Pakistan that are believed to be in the same condition) and Kaavan's release, so that we can move forward once and for all.
We will keep you updated as to the progress of the MoU, but in the meantime, please refer to our social pages and weekly blogs to keep you closer to the wild while we all wait.
Thank you for reading and please, consider a small donation to fund Kaavan's journey to his new home.
The donations Free The Wild receives will help us cover land and air transportation costs, veterinary care prior to and throughout his journey and the air fares for the vets and professionals responsible for his care. We are also continuing to raise funds in order to have Islamabad Zoo completely renovated and its staff retrained by qualified and highly experienced experts, albeit Kaavan’s release is our foremost priority.
We do not condone Islamabad Zoo’s current practices and are urgently working to have the facilities renovated to provide sanctuary to the animals that reside there.
Any help you can provide, whether it’s by sharing this post or by donating a small amount of money will help our cause immeasurably.
The more pressure we can put on Pakistan and the Zoo, the more likely we are to create a positive outcome for Kaavan and all the other animals that are currently held captive, and in dire need of care, at Islamabad Zoo.
We highly appreciate your continued support.
Free the Wild