The elephant lived in a tiny enclosure and in isolation at the Marghazar Zoo in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
An elephant who was lonely and kept in a tiny enclosure for over 35 years is set to move to Cambodia from Pakistan where he is set to spend his remaining days. He will have new elephants to mingle with and a larger space to navigate. Dubbed the "world's loneliest elephant," Kaavan will finally see some company and breathe some fresh air, in Cambodia. Kaavan has lived all his life in a zoo in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad for more than three decades. While he always lived in a tiny enclosure at the Marghazar Zoo, he at least had company until 2012. His partner Saheli passed away in 2012 furthering his gloom. The pair had been kept in despicable conditions at the zoo.
His release from the zoo comes after a string of complaints. Kaavan's living conditions came to the spotlight after animal rights activists and celebrities spoke about it. American singer Cher was one of those who lobbied to have the elephant relocated, reported the Daily Mail. This May, Pakistan's High Court ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo on account of its poor conditions. In July, the court ordered for the elephant to be transferred to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.
Kaavan is currently overweight because of his lack of exercise and confinement. He was living in an enclosure that measured just 295-feet by 460-feet pen. Kaavan's mahout (keeper) Mohammad Jalal said he had never seen the elephant happy. The death of his partner Saheli compounded by the living conditions made Kaavan became more aggressive towards humans. With little shade, and constantly made to sit in the sun, he was always found swaying and bobbing his head. Zookeepers chained the animal on a short leash as they didn't know how else to handle him. This worsened matters. Now, Kaavan had less space to maneuver within the enclosure and was irritable and aggressive. FOUR PAWS International, an animal rights group confirmed the elephant was being moved to Cambodia. The high-profile rights campaign had paid fruit.
Local wildlife officials and veterinarians of FOUR PAWS International could be seen visiting the Pakistani zoo to put into motion the transfer of the pachyderm. They used anti-wound spray on him and drew a blood sample for further testing. Amir Khalil, head of project development at FOUR PAWS International, and Frank Goeritz, head of the veterinary service at Leibniz Institute for zoo and wildlife research in Berlin could be seen taking measurements of Kaavan, an elephant at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan in September.
Last month, ahead of the potential transfer, animal welfare charity FOUR PAWS examined the elephant and found that it had a list of illnesses due to the forced isolation. "Due to the lack of any exercise whatsoever and inappropriate diet, his toenails are in very bad condition due to the lack of proper foot care and appropriate flooring. Mentally, he was also in a poor state - showing severe stereotypical behavior and also an aggressive attitude to humans," said Dr. Amir Khalil.
The expert said the isolation severely affected the mental health of the animal. "This can be easily explained by the lack of any mental enrichment and contact with other elephants, as well as humans, his mahouts were merely piling up the food in a single place once a day in his enclosure and then going home."
He is now being trained for his departure. He will be trained to enter a container that will be taken on a plane to Cambodia. Kaavan will also be accompanied by veterinarians. "He will be able to form a group with other elephants and actually live in a vast area of his natural habitat. Contact with other elephants will help him establish his position within his new family group and also gain more self-confidence," said Dr. Khalil.
COVER IMAGE SOURCE: TOKYO, JAPAN - MAY 15, 2020: An elephant is seen at the Chiba Zoological Park (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)