For 35 years, Kaavan has lived at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad — most recently in appalling conditions and in failing health.
But now veterinary checks have deemed the male elephant, which has lived without another elephant companion since 2012, fit enough to transfer to a sanctuary, possibly in Cambodia.
Pakistani authorities allowed animal welfare group FOUR PAWS International to assess Kaavan after the Islamabad High Court ordered the closure of the controversial zoo, which is suffering from underfunding and poor conditions.
Kaavan arrived in Pakistan in 1985 as a gift from Sri Lanka.
From 1990 onwards he shared his enclosure with his partner Saheli, but since her death in 2012, Kaavan has been called the “world’s loneliest elephant.”
“Due to malnutrition and lack of physical exercise Kaavan shows visible signs of obesity,” Dr. Amir Khalil, the group’s veterinarian and mission leader said in a statement. “Also, his nails are cracked and malformed which can be attributed to the inappropriate flooring and structure of his enclosure. To solve this issue, he needs to go through a long-term foot care program, which cannot be performed in Marghazar Zoo.”
#SupportPakistaniAnimals: #Kaavan, the loneliest elephant in the world 🐘— FOUR PAWS (@fourpawsint) September 5, 2020
We were asked to perform a medical examination to see whether he is fit enough for transport. Please find the results here: https://t.co/AS4MfrTSdI #IslamabadZoo pic.twitter.com/HecsHWhIP9
FOUR PAWS made the announcement Sept. 5 after a team of vets sedated Kaavan so they could perform lab work, including blood tests, and assess his overall health.
“A lack of physical and behavioural enrichments as well as the absence of a partner, have resulted in Kaavan becoming incredibly bored,” Dr Frank Göritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin said later. “He has already developed stereotypical behaviour where he swooshes his head and trunk from side to side for hours. Overall, the results from his blood tests are good and his general health condition allows him to be relocated.”
Wildlife advocates have been lobbying for Kaavan’s transfer since 2016.
Efforts ramped up when the court shuttered the zoo in May, but the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board said Kaavan’s health needed to be assessed before the animal could be transferred — if fit enough — to a more suitable home.
For some, including celebrity Cher, that transfer can’t come soon enough.
When we knew We’d be able 2 pick up Kaavan,we jumped up & Down.worked on this for 5+yrs.He had to be trained to go in & Out of his crate.We Will pick him Up in Islamabad & take him to Cambodia.Can’t Wait 2 Sing 2 him.Flying Him 2 Cambodia.— Cher (@cher) September 6, 2020
And with good reason.
Two lions died during an attempt to move them when local animal handlers set fire to their enclosure in a failed attempt to push them into transport crates.
Another two dozen animals have died there in recent years. And, some 500 zoo animals have simply gone missing.
FOUR PAWS is also trying to removed two former dancing bears being kept at the Zoo, whose medical exams are underway.
🇵🇰🔸#FOURPAWSinPakistan🔸🇵🇰 : Dr Amir Khalil and his team support the rescue of about 30 zoo animals in Islamabad! After a…Posted by FOUR PAWS International on Monday, August 31, 2020
FOUR PAWS offered to bring the bears to its own sanctuary, which is run with Princes Alia Foundation, in Jordan.
Decisions on some 30 other zoo animals — including three wolves, twelve monkeys, one deer and over fourteen rabbits — haven’t been made.
Officials hope Kaavan — and the other suffering animals — will be moved soon.
Photos: FOUR PAWS/Twitter/Facebook