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If Kaavan Could Speak - Part 3/5

Please note: We recommend you read Part 2 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.

In the morning, I was woken by the mahut banging against the metal gate. He stepped in with a bunch of sugar cane. Out of fear, I pushed myself away and backed into the corner. He shouted and then threw the sugar cane at me. I was starving, so quickly picked up what I could and ate my fill. It was delicious, and a delicacy I’d only ever tasted once before. Little did I know that I would be eating this for the rest of my life.


My first year at the Zoo was spent on my own, my only company, my mahut. Every morning, he would feed me, walk me into a larger pen and strap weights to my back. He would then lead me in circles around a pole, hooking me back into place if I ever strayed the line. As the weeks went on, the weights got heavier.


One morning, my mahut woke me, fed and watered me as usual, but then walked me through the paths and corridors of the zoo, until we arrived at the front gate. There, he and another man strapped clothing to my back and a small seat. I immediately protested the idea, but I was whipped and cracked across the head when I tried to say no. My mahut then led me to a queue of people waiting at the gate, and introduced me as “Kaavan.” He offered children rides on my back for money… I thought that “Kaavan” meant “ride,” but it later transpired to be my name.

This is Kaavan as a baby - giving rides to children was his daily duty

A child pulled on my ear one day, so I turned to face him – I was hit so hard that I felt the blood run down my face. From that day on, I would never acknowledge a person ever again. I realised then that this was to be my future and there was nothing I could do about it. I spent every waking moment planning my escape and dreamt every night of seeing my family again. Those dreams, in themselves, were more torturous than the bull hook beatings.

My training continued, despite every effort to prove I understood my task. I didn’t enjoy it, but I knew full-well how to carry a child on my back. Nonetheless, it went on for another two years. Each month a slightly heavier load to make sure I could cope with the larger children and sometimes two at a time.


There were occasions where I’d be made to carry “children” who were obviously too large for me, and when I protested under their weight, my response was always the same; a swift strike to the head with the bull hook. No matter how much my knees shook, no matter how thirsty I was and no matter how crude my diet, I was always expected and pushed to carry these people around the zoo.

The Bullhook - What most elephants will be subjected to under training

My only solace; the memory I had of Sri Lanka, my mother and the friends I would likely never see again. At night, I never liked to dwell on the past because it would always upset me, but the howling cries from the zoo’s other residents were a constant reminder of how far from home I was.


I was completely alone in this place for another two years with my only social interactions being those with my mahut and the children I ferried.



If Kaavan could speak – Part 3 of 5


Free The Wild’s primary objective is to set Kaavan free. We use your 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. We are also continuing to raise funds in order to have Islamabad Zoo completely renovated and retrained its staff by qualified and highly experienced experts.


We do not tolerate Islamabad Zoo’s current practices and are pressing Pakistan and Islamabad Zoo’s board of directors to have the facilities renovated and 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