The "world's loneliest elephant" will finally be allowed to leave the Pakistani zoo he's been held captive in for over three decades after a court ordered the controversial zoo to close.

The Asian bull elephant Kaavan has been held in Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad for 35 years.

For some of that time he had his partner Saheli to keep him company, but after she passed away in 2012 he's been on his own.

Last Friday, members of global animal welfare collective Four Paws was allowed to conduct a medical exam on behalf of Pakistani authorities to ensure he was well enough to be moved, and steps are now being taken to relocate him to a sanctuary, with one in Cambodia (Kaavan's homeland) named as a potential new home.

Marghazar Zoo was ordered closed by the Islamabad High Court in May for its poor keeping conditions.

In September 2016, Kaavan's cause was picked up by animal welfare organisations after it emerged the zoo had kept him chained up for over two decades and the elephant had become mentally ill.

Less than a year later four lion cubs died at the zoo after being slowly poisoned with the wrong kind of milk.

According to Four Paws, two more lions died from smoke inhalation in July when local animal handlers seeking to relocate them lit a fire in their enclosure to try to scare them into their transport crates.



Four Paws was invited to assess Kaavan by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) that now oversees the zoo.

Kaavan was sedated and veterinarians took blood samples and microchipped him.

"Due to malnutrition and lack of physical exercise Kaavan shows visible signs of obesity," Four Paws vet and mission leader Dr Amir Khalil said.

"His nails are cracked and malformed which can be attributed to the inappropriate flooring and structure of his enclosure." Dr Khalil added.

"To solve this issue, he needs to go through a long-term foot care program, which cannot be performed in Marghazar Zoo."

Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Dr Frank Göritz said that a "lack of physical and behavioural enrichment, as well as the absence of a partner, have resulted in Kaavan becoming incredibly bored".

"He has already developed stereotypical behaviour where he swooshes his head and trunk from side to side for hours," he said.

Dr Göritz added that overall the blood test results were good and Kaavan has been declared healthy enough to be relocated away from the zoo that has served as his prison.

Originally published as Elephant to be freed after 35 years

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