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Our Petition to Stop Elephant Imports to Pakistan

As most of you are aware, Free The Wild has been focused on a project in Islamabad, Pakistan, where we're working with a number of NGOs and public groups to free Kaavan, Pakistan’s last remaining Asian elephant.

Despite discussions with Islamabad Zoo, the Ministry of Climate Change and the Mayor, Pakistan continues to linger on their decision to allow Kaavan to leave the country. We are still pressing for the Memorandum of Understanding we prepared several months ago, to be reviewed and signed. We will, of course, provide updates on this as and when new information comes to light.

In the meantime, however, we’d like to bring your attention to another issue that's developing in the background.

Pakistan recently applied to import ten elephants from Namibia, but had their permit revoked for undisclosed reasons. All we know is that Namibia were willing to issue a license for the animals, until they found that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) hadn’t supplied Pakistan with the permit they’d require to do so.

We know that Lahore Zoo’s only female elephant, Suzie, died in May 2017 and they’ve been trying to replace her ever since. Islamabad Zoo lost their only female elephant in 2012 and Kaavan will hopefully be leaving to Cambodia soon, leaving both zoos with no elephant exhibits.

CITES recently imposed a near-total ban on sending wild African elephants captured to zoos. Representatives from the group agreed that elephants should remain in their “natural and historical range in Africa, except in exceptional circumstances where … it is considered that a transfer to ex-situ locations will provide demonstrable in-situ conservation benefits for African elephants”.

Despite this and Pakistan’s well-publicised campaign to reverse climate change by planting ten billion trees, their government is making it clear that they have little empathy for their imported elephants, most of whom go on to become ill or die from lack of care. Thankfully, Nambia declined to supply Pakistan with the elephants, but news has emerged that allied China has secured a deal with Zimbabwe to import thirty babies, two of whom are believed to be destined for Pakistan.

This shows that there are very clear and easily exploited loopholes in the systems that have been set-up to protect the elephants in the first place. What is the point in us, or anyone else, working to free Kaavan, if as soon as he’s released, he’s immediately replaced by another elephant? We need to send a message to Pakistan that keeping these majestic animals in captivity is both cruel and unnecessary. There are currently five elephants in Pakistan and based on the way they are treated, their health and their prospective futures, there is little evidence to suggest that Pakistan is equipped to take on even one more elephant, let alone ten.

As such, one of Free The Wild’s Trustees has created a petition to address these issues and prevent more wild elephants from being imprisoned and chained up in Pakistan. Since it’s creation, Pakistan’s environment ministry has confirmed that there are currently no applications under consideration to import elephants into the country, but the news of China’s latest import and the fact that both China and the UAE are within their legal rights to “gift” these animals to Pakistan, leaves us feeling uneasy.