Kaavan, also known as “the world’s loneliest elephant,” is finally free, thanks to actress and singer, Cher.
74-year-old Cher personally visited Pakistan as part of a rescue mission to free him from his chains and solitude, and she finally had success.
According to a local activist, Kamran, the elephant was gifted to Pakistan in 1986. He remained in chains at the Islamabad Zoo for nearly 35 years, but in 2015, photos of his inhumane conditions gained attention across the world. Kaavan did have a partner, Saheli, but she passed away in 2012 and Kaavan was left in solitude ever since.
According to the Associated Press, Dr. Amir Khalil, a veterinarian with Four Paws, said that Saheli passed away from an untreated infection and her body was left in the enclosure with Kaavan for several days before being removed. Kaavan was noticeably distraught following the incident and remained heartbroken ever since.
Thankfully, Kaavan now has the chance to live his remaining years in comfort and freedom. According to Today, Kaavan was granted permission to leave the zoo after Cher met with Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“Just Came From Meeting To Thank Prime Minister Imran Kahn For Making It Possible For Me To Take Kaavan To Cambodia. Kaavan Will Be Able To Leave For Cambodia On The 29. Think Documentary Will Be Heartwarming🙏🏻.” she posted on Twitter.
Just Came From Meeting To Thank Prime Minister Imran Kahn For Making It Possible For
Me To Take Kaavan To Cambodia. Kaavan Will Be Able To Leave For Cambodia On The 29. Think Documentary Will Be Heartwarming🙏🏻.
— Cher (@cher) November 27, 2020
Cher partnered with the animal organization, Four Paws, to help free the neglected elephant. They shared on Instagram, “Good news for Kaavan! Together, with U.S. superstar @Cher, we are planning to relocate elephant Kaavan in the coming weeks! The Islamabad High Court has assigned our vet, Dr Amir Khalil, with the logistical organization and carrying out of Kaavan’s relocation from Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia.”
Despite having a chance at freedom, Kaavan’s still got a long road ahead of him. As the Associated Press reports, Kaavan is going to need years of treatment and physical therapy after spending most of his life neglected in the zoo. As it turns out, Kavaan wasn’t the only animal neglected in the zoo and Pakistan’s high court ordered the zoo to close in May.
The Associated Press shared:
“A medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet. The elephant has also developed behaviors including shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom.”
According to Kamran, “Dr Amir Khalil from Four Paws travelled all the way from Austria to start the rehabilitation and relocation program for Kaavan.”
Freeing Kaavan did pose a few logistical challenges. Since Pakistan has no elephant rescues, they had to transfer the elephant to a sanctuary in Cambodia. They had to use a custom-built crate to accommodate his size, which was placed into a special plane that was chartered just for the purpose of the relocation.
According to NPR, Martin Bauer, spokesman for Four Paws, shared:
“Transferring an adult elephant on a plane is something very, very rare. An elephant transfer by plane on this scale I think has never happened before, so we are writing history here.”
The transfer ended up being a success and Kavaan touched down in Cambodia on November 30. Elephant activist Julia Mercedes Eden shared of his landing, saying, “One of the first things he did was drink loads of water and then throw mud all over himself in true elephant fashion. I don’t think he’d been able to do that at Islamabad Zoo. He ate loads of new fresh food too.”
And after eight grueling, lonely years, Kaavan finally got to share contact with a fellow elephant.
According to NPR, Bauer shared, “The goal is to socialize him. It will take a while because he has lived on his own for such a long time. But yes, ultimately the goal is to bring him together with other animals because that’s what elephants want. They’re herd animals, they always form families, and that’s also what we plan for him.”
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