An elephant who has become a cause celebre for animal rights activists around the world will be allowed to leave his Pakistani zoo and transferred to better conditions, the animal welfare group helping with the case said Saturday. Dubbed the 'world's loneliest elephant' by his supporters, Kaavan has languished at a zoo in Islamabad for more than 35 years. Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws, said the elephant has been finally given medical approval to travel, most likely to Cambodia, where he will find companionship and better conditions, the AP reports. The overweight elephant Kaavan underwent a full medical examination at the zoo on Friday. In May, Pakistan’s High Court ordered the Marghazar Zoo closed because of abysmal conditions blamed on systemic negligence.
Rescuing Kaavan from the zoo's dire conditions attracted the attention of animal activists around the world, and celebrities including US singer Cher, who lobbied for his relocation. "Unfortunately, the rescue comes too late for two lions that died during an attempted transfer at the end of July after local animal handlers set a fire in their enclosure to force them into their transport crates," Bauer said. He said Four Paws was invited by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to safely transfer the remaining animals in the zoo. Kaavan has until now been forced to live a solitary life in a small enclosure. He is overweight and suffers from malnutrition. His recovery will be a long one, said Bauer, adding that Kaavan's wounds are more than just physical. He also suffers behavioral issues. (Read about a grieving elephant who was given a special prescription.)