After years of abuse at an Islamabad zoo and a campaign by the American singer Cher, the elephant Kaavan was about to be transferred to a reserve in Cambodia on Sunday.
The famous singer arrived last week at Islamabad for being alongside the obese 35-year-old pachyderm who was being abused, sparking a fierce fight from Pakistani animal rights activists backed by Cher.
Singer Cher personally involved
The case of Kaavan and the deplorable state of the zoo in the Pakistani capital led a magistrate to order this year that all animals be transferred there.
“Thanks to Cher and also to Pakistani activists, Kaavan’s plight made headlines around the world and this helped facilitate his transfer,” said Martin Bauer, a spokesperson for Four Paws, the Austrian animal welfare organization that helped rescue the elephant. Cher “enjoys a huge following, so we really appreciated everything she has done for Kaavan since 2016”.
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The World’s loneliest elephant deserves a new life. We are committed to performing the hardest rescue we ever did. Please donate today! #FreeKaavan 🐘
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Dubbed the loneliest elephant in the world
Dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant by the press, it is the only Asian elephant in Pakistan – the others, few in number, are African pachyderms.
Cher, who has financially contributed to this transfer, must fly to Cambodia on Sunday to be in the country when the elephant arrives. Prime Minister Imran Khan met with the 74-year-old star this week to personally thank her.
A team of vets and groomers from Four Paws spent months with him preparing him for his trip. In particular, they trained him to enter the metal box that will be loaded into a cargo plane. The flight is expected to last seven hours.
Questions about his mental health
The zoo administration has in the past denied that the animal was mistreated, saying it was simply waiting to find a new companion, after the death of Saheli, killed by gangrene in 2012.
But international experts have observed stereotypical behavior in Kaavan – he often only turns his head and trunk side to side for hours on end – that has raised questions about his sanity.
All over Pakistan, zoos are distinguished by their poor facilities and poor animal care.