Kaavan the elephant has known nothing but ‘mental torment’ and a life in chains for the last 35 years.
And for the last eight years the bull elephant, who lives at the Maraghazar Zoo in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, has been totally alone after his companion Saheli, died.
The two elephants had shared an enclosure since 1990, but in 2012 Kaavan was left all alone.
After it emerged Kaavan was reportedly tied up at all times, hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition for him to be given a new home, where he would be better cared for.
It was backed by some of the biggest stars on the planet, like Cher, horrified at what was happening to the elephant.
Four years ago, zoo bosses insisted Kaavan was no longer chained but his long-awaited new mate never arrived and the elephant was forced to spend all his time alone.
They claimed he had only been chained when he suffered violent outbursts but there were also disturbing reports that Kaavan had been beaten to try to control his temper.
To make matters worse, Kaavan was confined to a pen just 90m by 140m with little shelter, which meant he had no respite from the baking sun.
Temperatures can reach a stifling 40C in Islamabad and there was no shade for the lonely elephant.
Safwan Shahab Ahmad, the vice chairman of Pakistan Wildlife Foundation who has studied the elephant since the 1990s, said behaviour like head bobbing demonstrated “a kind of mental illness”.
The elephant was regularly said to be seen swaying and bobbing his head in his enclosure.
Heartbreakingly, even his keeper, Mohammad Jalal, said: “I have hardly seen him happy.”
Even as recently as last month, campaigners said Kaavan’s conditions had deteriorated even further.
Dr Amir Khalil, from the charity Four Paws, said: “Due to the lack of any exercise whatsoever and inappropriate diet, his toe nails are in very bad condition due to the lack of proper foot care and appropriate flooring.
“Mentally, he was also in a poor state – showing severe stereotypical behaviour and also aggressive attitude to humans. This can be easily explained by the lack of any mental enrichment and contact with other elephants, as well as humans – his mahouts were merely piling up the food in a single place once a day in his enclosure and then going home.”
But now, after a lengthy court battle, Kaavan will finally be moved to his new home next month.
One person who is over the moon is music legend, Cher. She said: “This is one of the greatest moments of my life.”
He will be transported to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, where he will not only be given the care he so desperately needs but will also have friends to socialise with.
Work is already underway to get the crate he will be travelling in to the zoo so he can be trained to use it, which should reduce the stress of the long journey.
Dr Khalil explained the devastating impact loneliness can have on elephants.
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Source: The Mirror