FOR thirty-five years, elephant Kaavan has endured life in a run-down zoo in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. His fate has finally changed and he’s off on a new adventure.
Over the years Kaavan grew overweight and gained fame as “the world’s loneliest elephant,” a sad title given to him by animal rights groups and celebrities who campaigned against his unsuitable captivity.
Veterinarians with the animal aid group Four Paws International comforted Kaavan as they examined him and approved him for travel, most likely to an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.
“Following the checks, which confirmed Kaavan is strong enough, steps will now be taken to finalise his relocation,” Four Paws, based in Vienna, said in a statement Saturday, September 5.
Kaavan’s delightful 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 long time 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.
As if being over-weight wasn’t enough of a problem for Kaavan, examiners determined that he suffers from an array of other physical and psychological ailments. His nails are cracked and feet damaged from years walking on unsuitable flooring, and he has behavioural issues, the vets reported.
“A lack of physical and behavioural 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, explained in his statement. “He has already developed stereotypical behaviour 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.
The average Asian elephant lives into their mid-50s, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
However, a 2008 study in the journal Science reported that elephants kept in captivity on average live shorter lives than those in the wild. There is still hope for Kaavan though, and although a transfer date has not yet been set it is certainly on the horizon.