Cher Rescues ‘World’s Loneliest Elephant’ Living In Pakistan Zoo For Over Three Decades

Nov 30, 2020 by apost team

Kavaan, an isolated 36-year-old Asian elephant who made headlines earlier this year for being the "worlds loneliest elephant" as he withered in poor health at a Pakistani zoo, is getting a new lease on life – and he can, at least partly, thank Cher for that. 

Last week, the singer traveled to Islamabad to celebrate the animal's departure before he boarded a plane on Sunday to start his new life in a sanctuary in Cambodia. 

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Kavaan languished for many years in the controversial Murghazar zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he lived in isolation since the death of his partner, Saheli, in 2012. Kavaan's plight caught Cher's attention in 2016 when activists began posting his story online to raise awareness of the appalling conditions in which he was living. The singer then became an integral part of his relocation campaign, using social media to spread awareness and make Kavaan a priority for her NGO, Free the Wild, of which she is a co-founder.

"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?'," Cher told CNN

According to the Associated Press, Kavaan had spent most of his life in chains and was fed a sup-par diet of predominantly sugar cane, which led him to become both overweight and malnourished. Tragically, years of loneliness after his partner passed away had caused psychological trauma to the elephant as well. According to veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil, who works at the animals rescue Four Paws, Kavaan had developed behavioral issues, including shaking his head back and forth due to boredom. 

The campaigns shed light on the problematic conditions at Murghazar zoo, with Pakistan's high court finding rampant, systemic negligence which led to abysmal living conditions and ruled it close in May this year. 

For the last three months, Dr. Khalil has been working closely with Kavaan to bring him to better health and prepare him for his flight to Cambodia, where he would be starting a new life at the Non-profit Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. The elephant was put on a diet of fresh vegetables and fruit and has lost half a ton while also going through training exercises to get used to the small enclosure and loud noises he would experience on the plane. According to Martin Bauer, a spokesperson for Four Paws, transporting an Elephant on an airplane is no small feat. 

"Transferring an adult elephant on a plane is something very, very rare," Bauer told NPR. "An elephant transfer by plane on this scale I think has never happened before, so we are writing history here," he added.

Kavaan boarded his flight to Cambodia on Sunday and joined the sanctuary earlier today. At his new home, the elephant will live in a huge jungle enclosure with an abundance of fruit and vegetables for him to munch on, with another three female elephants to keep him company. 

"The goal is to socialize him," Bauer explained. "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."

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Cher traveled to Pakistan's capital last week to oversee Kavaan's relocation and met with the country's Prime Minister, Imran Khan, to thank him for making the rescue possible. 

"This is Free The Wild's first big rescue and I am so proud," Cher said.

The singer also got to visit Kavaan before his departure and serenaded him with the song, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. She has now teamed up with the Smithsonian Channel for a documentary on the elephant's story. "Think Documentary Will Be Heartwarming," Cher tweeted on Friday.

While Cher and Free the Wild led the campaign to raise awareness for Kavaan, Four Paws made the rescue a reality. Bauer praised Cher for her involvement in making the elephant's story heard globally and said celebrity voices can have a powerful impact on advocating for animal rights.  

"Celebrities lending their voices to good causes are always welcomed, as they help to start public discourse and raising pressure on responsible authorities," Bauer said.

Are you happy to hear Kavaan is on his way to a new life in Cambodia? What do you think about celebrities lending their voices for animal rights? Let us know in the comments, and make sure you pass this along to your friends and family! 

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