After years of lobbying by animal rights activists and groups, Kaavan, considered to be the ‘world’s loneliest’ elephant, is set to get a new home of friends at a sanctuary in Cambodia. Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare group, led the charge to save Kaavan, who has been languishing at the Marghazar Zoo in Pakistan for 35 years. He is set to leave for a sanctuary in Cambodia on Sunday.
Kaavan lost his partner in 2012 and has been lonely since then. Thirty-five-year-old Kaavan was diagnosed by veterinarians as both overweight and malnourished earlier this year, and also suffers behavioural issues. The battle for his relocation began in 2016.
Iconic singer and actor Cher took up Kaavan's cause and has been a loud voice in advocating for his resettlement. She reached Pakistan on Friday to meet Kaavan before he was relocated to Cambodia. Thanks to the efforts of Pakistani activists as well, Kaavan's fate made headlines around the world, and this contributed to the facilitation of his transfer, Martin Bauer of Four Paws International told The Associated Press on Friday.
Four Paws, which often carries out animal rescue missions, has provided the medical treatment needed before Kaavan can travel. Even after Kaavan reaches Cambodia, he will require years of physical and even psychological assistance, Bauer said.
Because of the abysmal living conditions due to the systemic negligence, Pakistan's High Court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for much of his life.
According to a report in BBC, Kaavan was kept at Sri Lanka's Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage (PEO) when he was a calf. It is believed that the Sri Lankan government gifted Kaavan to former Pakistan military ruler General Zia-ul Haq when the pachyderm was a year-old, for supporting the island country’s army during an insurgency.
A medical examination in September showed Kaavan's nails were cracked and overgrown the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet. The elephant has also developed stereotypical behaviour, shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.
For the past three months, a Four Paws team, including veterinarian Dr Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, has been readying Kaavan to leave.
Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the sanctuary. According to a report in The Guardian, experts have trained Kaavan to enter a huge metal cage to prepare him to travel.
Bauer lauded the powerful impact celebrity voices can have for animal rights. Celebrities lending their voices to good causes are always welcomed, as they help start public discourse and raising pressure on responsible authorities, he said. “Around the globe, there are animal lovers, famous and not famous, and the support of every single one of them is crucial," he added.
“Also, a huge thanks to American businessman Eric Margolis for donating for Kaavan’s flight and the relocation of the remaining animals from the Marghazar zoo," Four Paws International wrote on its Facebook page. As part of its efforts to raise funds to relocate Kaavan to his new home in Cambodia, the organisation said, “Thank you for helping us raise the $50,000 we needed to build Kaavan's quarantine enclosure in Cambodia! We did it!”
(With input from PTI)