ISLAMABAD (AP) – Iconic singer and actress Cher is in Pakistan to celebrate the departure of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s lone elephant,” who will soon leave the Pakistani zoo for better conditions after years of lobbying by animal protection groups and activists.
Due to security concerns, Cher’s schedule was not made public. However, he met with Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday and is expected to visit Kaavan later in the trip, according to the prime minister’s office. Khan’s office posted a video of the singer sitting outside the vast areas of Khan’s residence with the prime minister.
Kaavan, the elephant, languished in the zoo 35 years ago and in 2012 lost his mate. Veterinarians are overweight and malnourished and also suffer from behavioral problems due to their isolation.
Kaavan will leave for a shrine in Cambodia on Sunday, said Martin Bauer of Four Paws International, a global animal welfare group that has been leading the charge since 2016 to rescue him.
Cher took on Kaavan’s cause and voiced his support for his resettlement. The Four Paws, which often perform animal rescue missions, provided the necessary medical treatment before Kaavan could travel and accompany him to the sanctuary.
Even after your stay in Cambodia, you will need years of physical and psychological help, Bauer said.
Due to the horrific living conditions attributable to systemic negligence, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital of Islamabad, where Kaavan lived most of his life, in May.
A medical examination in September showed that Kaavan’s nails were cracked and overgrown – the result of living in a house with inadequate coverings for years, which damaged her legs.
The elephant also developed a stereotypical behavior, shaking its head back and forth for hours, causing the medical group of wild veterinarians and experts to be utterly bored.
Over the past three months, the Four Paws team, including veterinarian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamic Wildlife Management Board, have prepared for Kaavan’s departure.
Khalil first met Kaavan in 2016 and returned to the zoo in August, where the condition of the animal was heartbreaking. Khalil has been trying to prepare him for his trip to Cambodia for the past three months.
Kaavan was on a diet of fruits and vegetables, and as a result, he lost half a ton (450 kilograms), he said. Previously, Kaavan consumed 250 kilograms (550 pounds) of pure cane a day, occasionally fruit and vegetables.
According to the veterinarian, this was the first time in 30 years that a strong emotional bond had developed with a rescue animal. Now the “loneliest elephant in the world” gets stuck when he hears Khalil’s voice.
“I’ve always been moving, so I never allowed myself to form an emotional attachment,” but Kaavan couldn’t resist, ”Khalil said. He said he had pampered and protected her for the past three months, forced her to lose weight, and was less excited and calmer to be able to make the trip to Cambodia.
Khalil says there are many elephants in the sanctuary, but three female elephants in particular are waiting for Kaavan to arrive.
Khalil joked that Kaavan might just find a girlfriend there – who knows?
Bauer praised the huge impact of celebrity voices on animal welfare.
“They always welcome celebrities who turn their voices to good causes as they help start public discourse and put pressure on the responsible authorities,” he said.
“There are animal lovers all over the world, famous and unheard of, and the support of all of them is crucial,” he added.