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‘World’s loneliest elephant’ to be rescued from infamous zoo

Written by on September 5, 2020


Image: AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images

By Anna Iovine2020-09-05 19:58:40 UTC

After years of solitude, the supporter-dubbed “world’s loneliest elephant” will get a new lease on life with the help of animal welfare organization Four Paws. 
Kaavan the elephant had been living in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, for over 35 years. Originally a gift from Sri Lanka, according to Four Paws’s press release, Kaavan lived with his partner Saheli in the zoo from 1990 until Saheli’s death in 2012. In the eight years since, Kaavan has been alone. 
Kaavan isn’t the only animal to suffer in the zoo. Over 500 animals have been reported missing, and over two dozen animals died at the zoo in the last four years. The Islamabad High Court decided to close the zoo in May for its poor conditions, but animals weren’t removed. As a result, some didn’t survive long enough to be rescued: Two lions died in July due to smoke inhalation when a fire broke out in their enclosure, Four Paws’s statement detailed.
Thankfully for Kaavan, though, his time in solitary confinement is almost up. Marghazar Zoo is now controlled by the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, which invited Four Paws to help relocate the surviving animals. On Sept. 4, Four Paws examined Kaavan to assure he’s healthy enough to survive the move. 

While the wildlife veterinarians and experts confirmed Kaavan is strong enough, he’s not in great shape. “Due to malnutrition and lack of physical exercise Kaavan shows visible signs of obesity,” said Dr. Amir Khalil, Four Paws’s veterinarian and mission leader, in the press release. 
“Also, his nails are cracked and malformed which can be attributed to the inappropriate flooring and structure of his enclosure. To solve this issue, he needs to go through a long-term foot care program, which cannot be performed in Marghazar Zoo.”
Not only is Kaavan in poor physical health, his mental health has suffered in his time alone. Another veterinarian, Dr. Frank Göritz, head vet at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, said that the elephant has become very bored due to lack of enrichment or partner. “He has already developed stereotypical behavior where he swooshes his head and trunk from side to side for hours,” said Göritz.
Kaavan has suffered, but the experts deemed him healthy enough to be relocated. While it’s uncertain when and where exactly Kaavan will go — the press release said “potentially Cambodia” — Four Paws is taking steps to get him into an animal sanctuary. Hopefully soon we’ll see Kaavan with fellow elephants, lonely no more.

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