World's loneliest elephant' given permission to leave zoo for a better life

The ‘worlds loneliest elephant’ has finally been allowed to quit his zoo for a fresh start in life.

An animal welfare group who helped make the case for Kaavan’s release say his newfound freedom is something activists around the world can celebrate.

Known as the ‘worlds loneliest elephant’ by his supporters, Kaavan has been at a zoo in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad for more than 35 years.

Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, said the overweight creature has been given medical approval to travel, most likely to Cambodia, where he will find companionship and better conditions.

His examination also showed that as well as weighing too much, Kaavan was also malnourished, and his nails were cracked and overgrown after years of living in an improper enclosure.

In May, Pakistan’s high court ordered Marghazar Zoo to shut down over its abysmal conditions linked to systemic negligence.

Rescuing the elephant from dire conditions had attracted the attention of animal rights activists, including the American singer Cher, who lobbied for his transfer.

However, in a statement yesterday, Bauer said: ‘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 added that Four Paws was invited by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to safely transfer the remaining animals in the zoo. Until now, Kaavan has been forced to live in solitary confinement in a small enclosure.

Bauer said: ‘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.’

But, Kaavan’s recovery will be a long one, said Bauer, adding that his wounds are more than just physical as the elephant also suffers behavioural issues.

In 2012, the elephant lost his partner and has since battled loneliness as well as poor living conditions.

Bauer added: ‘He also developed stereotypical behaviour, which means he shakes his head back and forth for hours. This is mainly because he is simply bored.’

The Four Paws team that carried out Kaavan’s physical included wildlife veterinarians and experts.

It wasn’t immediately known when Kaavan would be able to travel as rights activists have lobbied for his relocation since 2016.

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