Kavaan, an elephant at Marghazar Zoo, who had been dubbed the ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ is on track to finally be let out of his solitary confinement. After the Islamabad High Court, in May, ruled that Kavaan and all the other animals at Marghazar Zoo must be released or relocated to another facility with better conditions.
Kavaan was being kept in terrible conditions–chained up most of the time– and was forced to be alone which was detrimental to his health. Elephants are social animals that live in herds or family units. A solitary life causes severe stress and anxiety to elephants.
As a result of the poor conditions he was kept in Kavaan’s nails got deformed, he grew overweight and became aggressive. Animal activists and journalists noticed his plight and drew attention to it, which eventually put Kavaan’s story in the Los Angeles Times. Where superstar and singer Cher stumbled upon his case and hired a legal team to help fight the battle for Kavaan’s freedom.
He will fly out on the 29th of November and be kept in a quarantine enclosure in Cambodia before being transferred to the sanctuary. But, moving such a massive animal is no easy task. Dr Amir Khalil, veterinarian and head of the mission with non-profit Four Paws has been brought in to assist with Kavaan’s transfer, along with other Four Paws workers.
Four Paws is an international animal welfare organisation, and they have worked in some tricky conditions before, for instance, relocating animals in Syria, Sudan and Gaza. They have been brought in to facilitate the transfer and to prepare Kavaan for it. There are few problems that have arisen in the transfer process, one is that Kavaan is one ton over the normal weight of an elephant, and the second is that he has entered his ‘Musth’ season which causes a jump in testosterone and may result in increased aggression.
Dr. Khalil has spent the last two months training Kavaan for the flight, and building a relationship with him. Dr. Khalil can frequently be found singing Frank Sinatra songs to Kavaan to soothe him. “This may seem absurd to outsiders, but it allowed me to build a close relationship with the elephant. Now he is ready to work with his trainer. As his personal physician, I will not leave Kaavan’s side during his entire journey.”, he said.
He will be transferred to Cambodia in a massive cargo crate so it is essential he becomes familiar with being inside one so he doesn’t panic on the flight. This training is carried out thrice a day. “Kaavan will be fully awake during the entire trip and will be fully aware of his surroundings also to balance himself while the crate is moving,” Ingo Schmidinger, Four Paws elephant curator, said.
Dr. Khalil believes, “Kaavan has also become a symbol and unfortunately an example of the way humans treat wild animals. Kaavan’s rescue is also a sign of hope, especially in this difficult year.”.