After years of loneliness in a Pakistani zoo, the "loneliest elephant in the world" has found a new home in Cambodia. Pop icon Cher insisted on greeting Kaavan personally.
Kaavan, who gained notoriety as "the loneliest elephant in the world", has found a new home. He traveled from Pakistan to Cambodia by plane.
In the course of the day it is to be brought to a nature reserve of around 10,000 hectares, where it can spend its old age with 600 other conspecifics.
The 36-year-old Kaavan was put in a special container at the Islamabad Zoo on Saturday and brought to the airport. Then he went by plane to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where the US artist Cher was waiting for him. She had previously said goodbye to Kaavan in Pakistan and then flew to Cambodia. Cher had campaigned for Kaavan together with animal rights activists. She started the #SaveKaavan campaign.
For months animal rights activists had prepared the elephant for the complicated journey. He was accustomed to a custom-made transport cage.
"Behave like a frequent flyer"
The vet Amir Khali from the animal welfare organization "Four Paws" reported that the trip went without any incident. Kaavan ate, was not stressed. He even slept a little while standing, leaning against the wall of the transport box. He acted like a "frequent flyer".
Kaavan had come to Islamabad Zoo in 1985 at the age of one. There he lived in a small enclosure with almost no leaves or shade and since the death of his partner Saheli in 2012, completely alone.
Kaavan had long been a stranger to human affection. The zoo keepers are said to have put him on iron chains because he was so aggressive. The zoo denies this. A veterinarian from the organization "Vier Pfoten" is said to have been the first to arouse his trust – with songs by Frank Sinatra.
Hundreds of thousands of signatures for relocation
Animal rights activists have long been concerned, in petitions with up to 400,000 signatures they repeatedly called for Kaavan’s relocation.
In May a court in Islamabad ordered his release and tasked the authorities with finding a "suitable" new home. This has now been found in Cambodia.
In the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary in northern Cambodia, preparations for the elephant had been made for weeks. Initially, he will be housed in a smaller enclosure to get used to his new surroundings – and to his new family. This consists mainly of three elephant cows named Diploh, Arun Reah and Sarai Mia. Later he should be able to move freely in the reserve.
During the day the elephant will be brought to its new home in Oddar Meanchey Province. "Kaavan will no longer be the ‘loneliest elephant in the world’," said Cambodia’s Deputy Environment Minister Neth Pheaktra.