On Friday, veterinarians with the animal aid group Four Paws International comforted Kaavan as they examined him and approved him for travel, probably to an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.
Kaavan’s change in fate followed years of advocacy by animal rights groups and celebrities, including Cher.
In May, Pakistan’s High Court ruled that Kaavan’s longtime home, Marghazar Zoo, must close because of its systematic neglect and unsafe conditions for animals.
“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,” Four Paws said in its statement.
Kaavan’s road to recovery remains arduous.
In addition to being overweight, examiners determined that he suffers from an array of other physical and psychological ailments. He’s malnourished, his nails are cracked and feet damaged from years pacing unsuitable flooring, and he has behavioral issues, the AP reported.
“A lack of physical and behavioral enrichments, as well as the absence of a partner, have resulted in Kaavan becoming incredibly bored,” Frank Göritz, head veterinarian at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, said in the statement. “He has already developed stereotypical behavior where he swooshes his head and trunk from side to side for hours.”
Sri Lanka gifted Kaavan to Pakistan in 1985, according to Four Paws.
He and his partner, Saheli, lived together in the Marghazar Zoo from 1990 until she died in 2012.