Elephants are famously social, highly intelligent creatures. In the wild, they live in cooperative groups with close family ties and complex, distinguishable social structures.

So imagine an elephant who has been held in captivity, chained by the legs in increasingly deteriorating conditions for 35 years, with the last eight years being entirely alone. That's how Kaavan, an Asian elephant dubbed the "world's loneliest elephant" has lived his life since he was a brought to the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad as a baby. After his partner, Saheli, passed away in 2012, he's not had any contact with another of his species.

In May, Pakistan's High Court closed down the zoo due to inhumane conditions and systemic negligence. But thankfully, Kaavan's plight caught the attention of animal advocates around the world, and through a coordinated effort, he was rescued.

Kaavan, whose physical and mental health suffered in the zoo, has now been transferred to Cambodia, where he will live with 600 other elephants at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. Yesterday, he had his first contact with a fellow elephant, touching trunks through two hefty fences. Four Paws, the organization that stepped in to rescue Kaavan, called it "a huge moment."

Keep ReadingShow less