The 'world's loneliest elephant' finally allowed to leave disgraceful zoo

A veterinarian of Four Paws International examines Kaavan. (Photo: Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

An elephant who has been dubbed the "world's loneliest elephant" has been medically cleared to be relocated elsewhere.

The elephant, named Kaavan, lost his partner in 2012 and has languished in poor conditions in a Pakistani zoo for several years.

In May, the Marghazar zoo, Islamabad, in which Kaavan was held, was ordered to close due to abysmal conditions blamed on systemic negligence within the zoo.

Animal rights activists around the world have been lobbying for Kaavan's relocation since 2016, with the case even attracting the attention of major celebrities - including American singer Cher.

The animal welfare group helping with Kaavan's case, Four Paws, has said that the elephant has now been cleared as medically fit to travel, and will be relocated to a zoo with much better conditions - likely in Cambodia.

Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, said that the elephant, who is currently overweight, underwent a full medical examination last week.

Kaavan, who is overweight, underwent a full medical examination at the zoo on Friday, said Bauer.

The examination showed that while the elephant was overweight, he was also exhibiting signs of malnutrition. Kaavan's nails were overgrown and cracked after years of living in an enclosure with unsuitable flooring.

The wounds are more than physical, with Kaavan also exhibiting behavioural issues from years of neglect. For some time, the elephant has been kept alone in a small enclosure.

“He... developed stereotypical behaviour, which means he shakes his head back and forth for hours. This is mainly because he is simply bored,” said Bauer.

While Four Paws have now been invited by the Islamabad wildlife management board to safely transfer the remaining animals from the zoo along with Kaavan, the move comes too late for a couple of animals:

“Unfortunately, the rescue comes too late for two lions that died during an attempted transfer at the end of July", said Bauer.

"Local animal handlers set a fire in their enclosure to force them into their transport crates,” Bauer said in a statement released on Saturday.

It is hoped that for Kaavan, and other animals from the zoo, will find companionship and a happier life once relocated to zoos with better conditions.