The elephant dubbed the loneliest in the world has been flown from Pakistan to his new home at a sanctuary in Cambodia. Kaavan the elephant was accompanied on the trip by Oscar-winning actress and singer, Cher, who helped arrange the rescue along with her charity, Free the Wild.
The 36-year-old elephant was gifted to Pakistan by the Sri Lankan government in 1985, when he was aged one. He has spent his life at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, where he lived in an inappropriate structure and suffered from a lack of exercise. He developed multiple physical and psychological problems, including the development of cracked and malformed nails, as well as loneliness after the death of his only elephant companion, Saheli, in 2012.
After learning from her Twitter followers that Kaavan was chained at the zoo, wildlife advocate Cher, 74, made it her mission to rescue him, a process that has been captured for a Smithsonian Channel documentary that will air in 2021. “I found out about Kaavan from the people on my Twitter,” Cher said in statement. “They would not stop saying ‘Cher, you have to do something, you have to fix this, you have to save him.’ I thought, how can I fix this? How can I save an elephant who's been shackled to a shed for 17 years and who is a thousand miles away?”
The zoo was closed earlier this year by Islamabad's High Court, and animal welfare organization, Four Paws, was granted permission to remove Kaavan. He will now live in a huge jungle enclosure at non-profit Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, where three other elephants live, and most of his food will be provided naturally. Cher and Free the Wild helped with relocating him, and the singer flew to Pakistan to thank the government and accompany Kaavan and his vets on his flight.
While in Pakistan, Cher met with Pakistan's prime minister, Imran Khan, who thanked her for her help and asked her to participate further in the country's environmental initiatives. She also serenaded Kaavan with the song, "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." "Kaavan’s trainers have discovered that singing calms him, and Cher is eager to assist," the Smithsonian Channel said. "She has two songs ready to fly."
You might also like:
How to interact ethically with elephants in Thailand
Safari animals: the story of elephants (and the best places to see them)
What’s killing Botswana’s beloved elephants? Experts scramble to find answers