'World's Loneliest Elephant' Kept in Chains is on His Way to Freedom Finally

Kaavan, an elephant is set to be transferred to better conditions than those at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad where he currently resides

An elephant that has been wilting away at a Pakistani zoo for over 35 years is finally on the verge of having a shot at 'happiness'. Kaavan, who has been dubbed by his supporters as the 'World's Loneliest Elephant', is set to be transferred to better conditions than those at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad where he currently resides.

Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, an animal welfare group that has been fighting Kaavan's case, said that the pachyderm has finally received the medical approval to travel. It is likely that he may be sent to Cambodia, where he will be able to thrive in better conditions and find companionship.

Kaavan, The Elephant
Kaavan, The Elephant Facebook/@friendsofislamabadzoo

According to Bauer, the overweight elephant underwent an extensive medical examination on Friday. The team examining Kaavan consisted of wildlife veterinarians and experts. "Following the checks, which confirmed Kaavan is strong enough, steps will now be taken to finalize his relocation to an animal sanctuary potentially in Cambodia," Bauer said in a statement.

A Long Struggle to Freedom

Calls for Kaavan's relocation began in 2016, with animal rights activists leading the charge. The efforts to rescue Kaavan from the inhuman conditions at the Marghazar Zoo managed to attract the attention of animal rights activists across the world, and also celebrities such as Grammy-winning singer Cher, who petitioned for his relocation.

Kaavan, who lost his partner in 2012, had been confined to a small enclosure with unfavorable living conditions. Bauer added that Friday's medical examination revealed that the elephant was overweight in spite of exhibiting signs of malnutrition. The tusker's nails were overgrown and cracked, supposedly due to living in an inappropriate cage with flooring that caused damage to his feet.

Expressing that Kaavan's journey to recovery is expected to be a long one, Bauer appended that his wounds are beyond physical. A combination of poor living conditions and loneliness, have left him with behavioral issues. "He also developed stereotypical behavior, which means he shakes his head back and forth for hours. This is mainly because he is simply bored," said Bauer.

A Zoo of Horrors

The animals at the Marghazar Zoo have suffered the same conditions as Kaavan, and in some cases worse. "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," the Associated Press News quoted Bauer as saying.

Pakistan's High Court ordered the closure of the zoo in May due to dreadful conditions arising on account of systemic negligence. Bauer also stated that the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board has invited the Four Paws to assist in the safe relocation of the remaining animals residing in the zoo.

This article was first published on September 6, 2020