Kaavan, the world’s loneliest elephant, has arrived in Cambodia—on a flight all the way from Islamabad in Pakistan—and will now spend his days at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary in the northwest of the country.
Animal experts began the task of airlifting Kaavan on 29 November in a crate specially built for him. His exit from Pakistan signals the culmination of a movement led by local activists and American singer and actress Cher, who has been fighting for the liberation of the elephant since 2016. She is the co-founder of the NGO Free The Wild, which played an important role in the relocation of Kaavan.
Who is Kaavan, the elephant?
According to the Four Paws animal conservation association, the Asian elephant Kaavan has been living in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad for nearly 30 years, where his “only companion” Saheli died in 2012. Kaavan came to the country as a present from Sri Lanka in 1985 when he was one year old and shared his enclosure with Saheli when she arrived at the zoo in 1990. After her death, Kaavan was reported to be listless and also began to exhibit symptoms of mental illness.
After Saheli’s death, some people called for the release of Kaavan, which was later escalated by Cher, who helped pay for Kaavan’s relocation.
Kaavan is also Pakistan’s only Asian elephant, and with its departure, the zoo where it has been kept for more than three decades will close. The zoo has repeatedly made headlines for its bad conditions. In July of this year, two lions died as a result of smoke inhalation following a fire in their enclosure. About 500 animals have been reported missing from the zoo in recent years and over two dozen animals have died in the past four years.
What did it take to move Kaavan from Pakistan to Cambodia?
In order to take him to Cambodia, more than 4,000 km away, a special elephant crate, which weighs more than five tonnes and is more than three meters high, was designed. Kaavan has already been conditioned by an elephant trainer for several weeks to ensure that he reaches the crate safely. On his trip to Cambodia, he was accompanied by wildlife veterinarians and over 200 kg of rice, according to media sources.