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The 'world’s loneliest elephant’ is finally moving to a new home after 35 years in confinement

He will soon be moved to an animal sanctuary—potentially in Cambodia—where he will find companionship and better conditions.

The 'world’s loneliest elephant’ is finally moving to a new home after 35 years in confinement
Cover Image Source: Four Paws

Kaavan, "the world's loneliest elephant," has spent nearly four decades of his life in a run-down zoo in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. He gained online fame in recent years after animal rights groups and celebrities campaigned against his unsuitable captivity and it looks like their efforts are now finally bearing fruit. A medical examination conducted by veterinarians with the animal aid group Four Paws International on Friday revealed that the Kaavan is now strong enough to be relocated from his current environment. He will soon be moved to an animal sanctuary—potentially in Cambodia—where he will find companionship and better conditions.


According to a statement released by Four Paws, in May, the Islamabad High Court decided to close the controversial Marghazar Zoo, Kaavan's longtime home, due to its poor keeping conditions. Following the ruling, the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB)—which is now responsible for the zoo—invited Four Paws to help with the safe relocation of the remaining zoo 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," the global animal welfare organization said in its statement.



Meanwhile, a medical examination was conducted on Kaavan to determine his health and whether he was stable enough to be transported. "Due to malnutrition and lack of physical exercise Kaavan shows visible signs of obesity. 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," said Four Paws veterinarian and mission leader, Dr. Amir Khalil.



Dr. Frank Göritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, added: "A lack of physical and behavioral enrichments as well as the absence of a partner, have resulted in Kaavan becoming incredibly bored. He has already developed stereotypical behavior 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." Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, told the Associated Press that no travel date has been set for Kaavan yet.



"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," he revealed. This news comes as a major win for animal rights groups and celebrities of the likes of Cher who have been campaigning for the elephant's release since 2016. According to Global Citizen, activists believe that endangered elephants unable to return to the wild should always be homed in appropriate conservation sanctuaries. This belief is echoed in declarations from the United Nations that conservation efforts and biodiversity benefit poverty eradication, disaster risk reduction, and food security.



Kaavan is said to have been gifted to Pakistan by Sri Lanka in 1985. "From 1990 onwards he shared his enclosure at Marghazar Zoo with his partner Saheli, but since her death in 2012, Kaavan has lived a lonely existence," Four Paws states. His release from Marghazar Zoo was sparked by a petition signed by over 400,000 people demanding his freedom. "It is critical to conserve both African and Asian elephants since they play such a vital role in their ecosystems as well as contributing towards tourism and community incomes in many areas," the WWF website states. "So, by helping protect elephants, we’re helping conserve their habitat, supporting local communities, and making sure natural resources are available for generations to come."


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