ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court approved the relocation of a lonely and mistreated elephant to Cambodia on Saturday after the pachyderm became the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by music star Cher. Kaavan was kept in chains at Islamabad Zoo and exhibited symptoms of mental illness, prompting global outrage over his treatment and a petition demanding his release that garnered over 400,000 signatures.
The capital's High Court ordered Kaavan's freedom in May and instructed wildlife officials to find him a "suitable sanctuary".
Authorities told a Saturday hearing that an expert committee had recommended he be moved to a 25,000-acre wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia for retirement. "The court has agreed with the proposal," Anis Ur Rehman, the chairman of Islamabad Wildlife management board, told AFP on Saturday. Zoo officials have in the past denied that the Kaavan was chained up, instead claiming he was pining for a new mate after his partner died in 2012. But his behaviour - including signs of distress such as bobbing his head repeatedly - demonstrated "a kind of mental illness", Safwan Shahab Ahmad of the Pakistan Wildlife Foundation told AFP in 2016.