By Charlotte Greenfield
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Just weeks after the "world's loneliest elephant" was rescued from a life of misery in Islamabad Zoo, two Himalayan brown bears, Suzie and Bubloo, were prepared to be airlifted on Wednesday from Pakistan's capital to a sanctuary in Jordan.
The bears were the final animals to be rescued after a court ordered the zoo be closed following years of campaigning by advocates including U.S. pop star Cher, who supported the transfer of elephant Kaavan to a sanctuary with other elephants in Cambodia.
"Today is a special day," said Dr Amir Khalil, a vet with rescue organisation Four Paws. "It's symbolic to close the zoo."
Khalil and his team sedated the male bear, Bubloo, while female Suzie, after a week of training reinforced by her favourite food, fish, could use her transport crate without sedation. The former dancing bears have severe health problems and Suzi has no teeth and had a tumour that had warranted lifesaving emergency surgery.
The bears will be rehabilitated in a Jordan sanctuary where they will share thousands of acres of forest with ten other bears.
Kaavan, the elephant who was airlifted to Cambodia last month, was doing well on his long road to rehabilitation, Khalil said. After years alone, he has bonded with two female elephants.
"It's still a long trip for him to learn to be a wild elephant, how to survive in the jungle and I think he will get some support from the female elephants," Khalil said.
Around 68 animals remained in severe conditions in captivity in Pakistan, he added.
On Wednesday, authorities in the northern city of Peshawar said a giraffe from the city's zoo had died due to unknown causes, the fourth giraffe death this year.
But Khalil said the closure of Islamabad Zoo could set a powerful precedent and he hoped to return when the zoo was turned into a wildlife rescue centre.
"There are lot of animals not only in Pakistan, everywhere in the world in bad (conditions) in captivity ... the high court already proved that Pakistan could be the lead to take very strict positions to ensure that animals don't deserve to suffer."
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Additional reporting by Jibran Ahmed in Peshawar; Editing by Nick Zieminski)