An elephant who has become a cause celebre for animal rights activists around the world will be allowed to leave his Pakistani zoo in favour of better conditions, animal welfare activists have said.
Dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant” by his supporters, Kaavan has languished at Marghazar Zoo in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad for more than 35 years.
Martin Bauer, a spokesman for animal rights group Four Paws, said the elephant has been finally given medical approval to travel, most likely to Cambodia, where he will find companionship and better conditions.
In May, Pakistan’s High Court ordered Marghazar Zoo to be closed because of abysmal conditions, blamed on systemic negligence.
Rescuing Kaavan from the zoo’s dire conditions attracted the attention of animal activists around the world – as well as celebrities including US singer Cher, who lobbied for his relocation.
Mr Bauer added: “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.”
He said Four Paws was invited by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to safely transfer the remaining animals in the zoo.
Kaavan has until now been forced to live a solitary life in a small enclosure.
Friday’s medical examination showed the elephant was overweight, even as he showed signs of malnutrition.
His nails were cracked and overgrown apparently from years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet.
“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.
Kaavan, who lost his partner in 2012, has battled loneliness as well as poor living conditions. Both have taken their toll, the Four Paws spokesman said.
“He also developed stereotypical behaviour, which means he shakes his head back and forth for hours. This is mainly because he is simply bored,” said Mr Bauer.
The Four Paws team that carried out Kaavan’s physical included wildlife veterinarians and experts.
It is not immediately known when Kaavan will be able to travel. Rights activists have lobbied for his relocation since 2016.