After years of public outrage and campaigns by American singer and actor Cher, the “loneliest elephant in the world” from Pakistan has retired in a Cambodian shrine.
Cher spent the past few days at the Islamabad Zoo to provide moral support to Kaavan, an overweight 36-year-old bull elephant whose pathetic treatment in the run-down facility sparked uproar over animal welfare groups and an enthusiastic social media campaign.
“My desires have finally come true,” Cher said in a statement thanking his charity, the Free Wild.
“We were expecting this moment and dreaming about it for so long that we could finally see Kaavan delivered.” [the Islamabad] the zoo will stay with us forever. “
Due to the case of Kaavan and the sad conditions at the zoo, a judge ordered all animals to be moved this year.
“Thanks to Cher and local Pakistani activists, Kaavan’s fate has taken on news around the world, and this has helped facilitate his relocation,” said Martin Bauer, a spokesman for animal welfare group Four Paws International, which is leading the relocation effort.
Experts spent hours calming a slightly calmed Kaavan in a specially designed metal crate, helping to pull it in with ropes at one point. This was lifted onto a truck and taken to Islamabad Airport on Sunday.
From there, Kaavan had to be sent via a Russian traffic jumbo jet to Siem Reap, northwestern Cambodia.
Cher, 74, spent several days in the Pakistani capital to visit Kaavan before traveling to a 10,000-acre (25,000-acre) Cambodian wildlife sanctuary. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan personally thanked him.
He had to fly to Cambodia on Sunday to be in the Southeast Asian country when the elephant arrived.
Officials say Kaavan is first kept in a small designated part of the park where he can see other elephants.
“Sending it to a place where you can stay with other similar elephants … it’s really the right choice,” Pakistan’s climate change minister, Malik Amin Aslam, told AFP.
“We are glad to see you happily in Cambodia and hope to find a partner soon.”
Called the world’s lone elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan.
The team of veterinarians and experts from the four paws spent months with Kaavan to prepare for the trip to Cambodia, which included training the elephant to enter the massive metal transport box that would be placed in a cargo plane for the seven-hour flight. .
Zoo officials had previously denied that Kaavan had been kept in quality conditions or placed in a chain, claiming instead that the creature was posing for a new mate after his mate died.
But Kaavan’s behavior, including signs of anxiety such as constant head-banging, raised concerns about his mental well-being.
Activists also said Kaavan was not adequately protected by Islamabad’s summer climates.
Kaavan’s partner, Saheli, died in 2012.
According to advocacy groups and conservationists, the appalling conditions at the Islamabad Zoo stemmed in part from a lack of Pakistani legislation to protect animal welfare.
“A lot of repairs are needed,” Rab Nawaz of WWF Pakistan said. “Kaavan is just an animal. There are many animals in Pakistan … that live in miserable conditions.