The plight of Kaavan, a mentally tormented bull elephant confined to a small pen in Islamabad Zoo for nearly three decades, has galvanised a rare animal rights campaign in Pakistan.
Local and international animal rights organisations launched the campaign a year ago after reports that keepers were beating the elephant and denying him food.
An online petition has gained more than 280,000 signatures and small protests have been held outside the zoo.
Raza Rabbani, the chairman of Pakistan’s senate, has urged the authorities to transfer Kaavan to a sanctuary.
The campaign has also attracted international attention, and calls for action from rights groups and celebrities such as singer Cher.
Elephants are gregarious. Kaavan, who was taken to Islamabad Zoo from Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, grew more unruly when the female elephant he was being kept with died in 2012.
Activists say caretakers have chained his legs, beat him, and confined him to an enclosure that is far too small.
Sunny Jamil, an activist at the Help Welfare Organisation, a local animal rights group, said the mangled ceiling fan in the enclosure testifies to its insufficient height.
Mr Jamil, a regular visitor to the zoo, said the temperature in the pen can reach 40C (104F) in summer, and the elephant is given little water to cool down.
“It is cruel,” he said.
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