An elephant that became a cause celebre for animal rights activists around the world will be taken out of a Pakistani zoo and transferred to better conditions, an animal welfare group says.
Dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant” by his supporters, Kaavan has languished at a zoo in the Pakistani capital Islamabad for more than 35 years.
Martin Bauer, a spokesman for advocacy group Four Paws, said the elephant had been given medical approval to travel, most likely to Cambodia.
He said a medical examination showed the elephant was overweight but was also showing signs of malnutrition.
Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown, apparently from years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet, Mr Bauer said.
These guys don't leave a job half done! Dr Amir Khalil of @fourpawsint stayed with #Kaavan even after his procedures were done, slowly feeding him to get his energy back up and making sure he was fine right up to when he fully woke up! @ftwglobal pic.twitter.com/21Md8FFnEo
— Friends of Islamabad Zoo (FIZ) (@IsbZooFriends) September 4, 2020
In May, Pakistan’s High Court ordered the Marghazar Zoo to close because of its abysmal conditions, blamed on systemic negligence.
The campaign to rescue Kaavan attracted the attention of animal activists around the world, and celebrities, including US singer Cher, lobbied for his relocation.
“Unfortunately, the rescue comes too late for two lions that died during an attempted transfer at the end of July after local animal handlers set a fire in their enclosure to force them into their transport crates,” Mr Bauer said.
He said the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board had invited Four Paws to safely transfer the remaining animals out of the zoo.
Long recovery ahead, activists say
Kaavan has until now been forced to live a solitary life in a small enclosure.
“Following the checks, which confirmed Kaavan is strong enough, steps will now be taken to finalise his relocation to an animal sanctuary, potentially in Cambodia,” Mr Bauer said.
His recovery will be a long one, said Mr Bauer, adding that Kaavan suffers from physical and behavioural problems.
He said Kaavan, who lost his partner in 2012, had battled loneliness as well as poor living conditions.
“He also developed stereotypical behaviour, which means he shakes his head back and forth for hours,” he added.
“This is mainly because he is simply bored.”
It is unclear when Kaavan will be able to travel.