For 35 years, Kaavan has endured life in a rundown zoo in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
Over the years he grew overweight and gained fame as “the world’s loneliest elephant,” a sad title bestowed on him by animal rights groups and celebrities who campaigned against his unsuitable captivity.
Now, life for Kaavan is finally looking up.
On Friday, veterinarians with the animal aid group Four Paws International comforted Kaavan as they examined him and approved him for travel, likely to an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.
“Following the checks, which confirmed Kaavan is strong enough, steps will now be taken to finalize his relocation,” Four Paws, based in Vienna, Austria, said in a statement Saturday.
Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, told The Associated Press that no travel date was yet set.
Kaavan’s change in fate followed years of advocacy by animal rights groups and celebrities, including Cher.
In May, Pakistan’s High Court ruled that Kaavan’s longtime home, Marghazar Zoo, must close because of its systematic neglect and unsafe conditions for animals.
“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,” Four Paws said in its statement.
Kaavan’s road to recovery remains arduous.
In addition to being overweight, examiners determined that he suffers from an array of other physical and psychological ailments. He’s malnourished, his nails are cracked and feet damaged from years pacing unsuitable flooring, and he has behavioral issues, the AP reported.
“A lack of physical and behavioral enrichments, as well as the absence of a partner, have resulted in Kaavan becoming incredibly bored,” Frank Göritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, said in the statement. “He has already developed stereotypical behavior where he swooshes his head and trunk from side to side for hours.”
Sri Lanka gifted Kaavan to Pakistan in 1985, according to Four Paws.
He and his partner, Saheli, lived together in the Marghazar Zoo from 1990 until she died in 2012.