Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Please note: We recommend you read Part 1 before continuing.
Disclaimer: The sequence of events depicted in these articles is based on the true story of Kaavan the elephant, written from his point of view.
I awoke to find myself bound at the legs, on my side and in a crate, travelling on the back of a large, loud lorry. I wasn’t alone – there were other animals there too. Two tigers, a leopard, a couple of bears and another elephant, from a different tribe. All bound like I was. I cried until I lost my voice, but never heard a response.
I lost track of how long the journey was, mainly because it felt endless. I was so nervous that I couldn’t control myself, and so ended up going to the toilet where I lay. It was disgusting and terrifying. The floor became so slippery that whenever the lorry turned left or right, I’d slide on my knees and crash into the walls of the crate.
We arrived at a busy harbour, where hundreds of men worked, shouted and laughed. As the truck pulled in, we were surrounded once more. The men lifted us in our crates onto a barge, where there were yet more animals like us. There must have been at least a hundred or more, yet none of us powerful enough to set ourselves free. I remember a large male orangutan who tried to grab at the people around his crate, but every time he latched on, his hands were thrashed with metal poles.
The barge set off with all the animals now making more noise than ever. In an attempt to quieten us, the men took buckets of sea water and doused the loudest. For those that refused to keep quiet, including myself, a man came around with a long, hooked stick and smacked us on the head. For the smaller ones, like the Leopard, this immediately made them quiet, but for others, like the orangutan, it took several lashings to make them still.
The journey was cramped, cold and uncomfortable, with most of us feeling very seasick. The stench of excrement will be with me for the rest of my days.
Eventually, we arrived at another harbour, busier and scarier than the last, with fishing nets that towered above the buildings. There were thousands of crates along the shoreline, some empty with lifeless animals within. The putrid smell on board was overpowered by an even more terrifying smell, creeping in from the port. I didn’t know it at the time, but I learned later that this was the smell of death.
Our crates were lifted from the barge by machines, where a man then came to each of us and hosed us down with a powerful water jet. It was sore for me, so I imagine that the smaller animals must have been quite badly hurt. At least now, we and our crates were relatively clean.
Some time later, a different man came to inspect us, scribbling notes on a clipboard and talking loudly with three others. He pointed to me, one of the bears and two wolves, following which the three men moved us onto another lorry. We were deathly quiet by this point – some of us had been smacked so much and so hard that we daren’t make a sound, others were lucky enough to have simply lost their voices from their earlier protests.
Still nauseous from the sea, I tried to sleep but my nervousness kept me wide awake. I watched as we drove through village after village, through thick jungle and out onto winding mountain roads, all the way to our final destination, Islamabad Zoo.
We were unloaded from the lorry and carried through to our separate enclosures – I’d never see those animals again, but I’d hear them every night. A man wielding a bull hook (a long stick with a metal hook on the end) was to become my mahut; my master. As my crate was undone, I looked up to see what was happening, but I was immediately struck over the head by the bull hook. It latched into my ear and the mahut applied pressure to pull my head down. Two men came into the crate with me and untied the bindings on my legs. The mahut let me go.
I stood up, my knees trembling and my legs weak. I stumbled out and made my first attempt to escape. I trumpeted loudly for my mother and ran as fast as I could, but my knees were too weak, leading me to collapse. As I hit the ground, the mahut struck me repeatedly, pulling at me with the hook until I got back to my feet. He continued whipping me, shouting at me and turning me to where he pointed – a small, concrete pen with a bed of straw in the corner. I ran in to escape the hook, where a metal gate then closed behind me.
I spent my first night in the zoo alone, with no food and no water. Over the coming four years, my only social contact would be training with my mahut and working for zoo visitors.
If Kaavan could speak - Part 2 of 5
Please visit us again for the next instalment of Kaavan's story.
Free The Wild uses donations to help cover land and air transportation costs, veterinary care prior to and throughout Kaavan's journey and the air fares for the vets and professionals responsible for his care. Although Kaavan's release is our highest priority, we are also continuing to raise funds to have Islamabad Zoo completely renovated and its staff retrained by qualified and highly experienced experts.
Islamabad Zoo’s current practices are beyond unprofessional and are we urgently working to have the facilities renovated. Our aim is to establish Islamabad Zoo so that it can provide sanctuary to the animals that reside there.
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