Remember Kaavan, the so-called “world’s loneliest elephant?” We wrote about him back in September when the elephant finally received medical approval to travel and leave the Marghazar zoo in Pakistan where he has been living alone for years under abysmal conditions.
Now, just a few months later, Kavaan has safely arrived at a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia after a 10-hour flight.
The 36-year-old elephant had been living alone in the controversial zoo in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad since his partner Saheli died in 2012, hence the reason Kavaan got his gloomy nickname. The years before her death, however, were not pleasant either. He spent most of his life in chains, and his condition deteriorated after his partner passed away.
After the animal welfare group Four Paws International shared Kavaan’s story online, pop signer Cher decided to get involved. “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.
The rescue of Kavaan was led by Four Paws in cooperation with the Pakistani authorities, American businessman Eric S. Margolis and the nonprofit Free The Wild, which was co-founded by Cher.
To get Kavaan ready for his epic journey, the team of veterinarians and elephant experts from Four Paws spent about three months in Islamabad feeding a healthy diet to the malnourished elephant, who lost a ton in the process. Three times a day, the team also practiced with Kavaan the safe and stress-free entry and exit into and from the transport crate that would eventually be air-shipped to Cambodia.
Cher was in Pakistan at the start of Kavaan’s journey and even sang to him “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” She was also there waiting for him when he arrived at his new home in Cambodia, where there are three other female elephants to keep him company.
“The goal is to socialize him,” said Four Paws spokesperson Martin Bauer. “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.”
After so many years of sorrow, it’s truly heartwarming to know that Kavaan finally has a decent home with elephant companions around him. For more on Kavaan’s journey from captivity to freedom, keep your eyes out for a new documentary that will premiere on the Smithsonian Channel in 2021.