International vets used tranquilizer darts to conduct a medical examination Friday on Pakistan’s lonely elephant Kaavan. The 35-year-old male Asian elephant will be moved to a sanctuary in Cambodia.
“He is totally obese, he weighs way too much and his feet are terrible,” said veterinarian Frank Goeritz from the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS. Kaavan’s toenails are cracked and malformed.
Goeritz said Kaavan has been eating up to 200 kilograms of sugar cane each day and is deprived of intellectual stimuli, resulting in stereotypical behavior where he moves his head and trunk from side to side for hours on end.
“He is bored. He needs definitely physical and mental challenges,” said Goeritz. His last examination was in 2016. Goeritz and his team used a tranquilizer pistol to fire three large darts into the animal’s shoulder before he could be examined. They measured Kaavan, took blood samples, and inserted a microchip in his left ear.
In May, a Pakistani court ordered freedom for the extremely lonely and neglected elephant. Kaavan had been living under horrible conditions and in isolation at the Islamabad Zoo. His sad life caused international outrage and caught the attention of American music icon Cher, who started fighting for his freedom.
Soon after Kaavan’s order for freedom, it was decided to move all animals at the zoo. FOUR PAWS has been asked to help with moving over 30 animals from the zoo to sanctuaries.
Local zoo staff, many of whom have never been given animal care training, tried moving some of the animals, which resulted in two lions and an ostrich dying during the process. Zookeepers tried to scare one lion out of his cage by setting piles of hay on fire.
A transport crate must be built for Kaavan. He has to get used to it before he can be flown to Cambodia.
Kaavan’s mate Saheli died of gangrene in 2012. Since then, he’s been alone the zoo. It is hoped Kavaan will find a partner once he is moved to Cambodia.