The “world’s loneliest elephant,” Kaavan, has finally received medical clearance to relocate to a peaceful, friendly sanctuary after languishing in a Pakistani zoo for over 35 years.
A medical examination determined that Kaavan is overweight and malnourished. His feet are cracked and overgrown from the small, unsuitable enclosure he spent most of his life in. And he faces a long road to recovery, but he’s strong enough to travel and will soon start his healing process.
After spending eight years in solitary confinement, Kaavan will likely move to Cambodia, where he can enjoy comfortable, spacious conditions and socialization with other elephants for the first time in almost a decade.
Kaavan also has behavioral issues from his captive lifestyle. He exhibits telltale signs of extreme boredom and loneliness, including moving his head back-and-forth for hours, Four Paws spokesperson Martin Bauer said in a statement.
Kaavan’s freedom is due to a recent landmark decision for animal rights, when the Islamabad High Court ruled in July that animals have basic rights, including living in an environment conducive to their social and physiological needs. Chief Justice Athar Minallah ordered Wildlife Management Board officials and other authorities to finalize plans for Kaavan’s relocation — a ruling that came after a decision in May to release Kaavan and several other captive animals from the Marghazar Zoo, which the court deemed has caused unnecessary pain and suffering to its residents.
Kaavan arrived at the zoo in 1985 at just one year old and spent decades in a substandard enclosure with a dirty pond and very little grass. He was often chained up due to alleged aggressive tendencies, likely stemming from captivity-related stress, and his health worsened in 2012 after his cage-mate passed away.
The hard-fought battle for Kaavan’s freedom marks an important milestone in the fight for animal rights and the beginning of his much-deserved second chance at life.