‘World’s loneliest elephant’ ready to fly to new home in Cambodia after Cher campaign

Kaavan is being flown to a sanctuary in Cambodia following a campaign by Cher. Credit: AP

An elephant dubbed the “world’s loneliest” after languishing alone for years at a zoo in Pakistan has been readied for his flight to a sanctuary in Cambodia after a campaign by Cher to rescue him.

The mammoth task of getting Kaavan into an elephant-sized metal box for transport took several hours, and was perhaps the most crucial step in rescuing him from the dire conditions he has lived in for 35 years.

Had Kaavan been spooked and refused to enter the cage or bolted, his departure could have been delayed for months while the rescue team sought to restore calm and trust before trying again, explained Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws International. The global animal welfare group has led the charge to save Kaavan since 2016.

Pakistani wildlife workers arrange Kaavan into a crate. Credit: AP

Famous American singer and actress Cher also arrived in Islamabad last week, the culmination of her longstanding efforts to raise awareness about rescuing Kaavan from the zoo.

Conditions there were so bad that a court in Pakistan’s capital ordered the zoo to be closed in August.

Dr Amir Khalil, a veterinarian with Four Paws who has been treating Kaavan’s many wounds and ailments over the past three months, said he was hopeful about the next chapter of the elephant’s life.

“In the sanctuary in Cambodia… waiting for him is three ladies, three Asian female elephants,” he said. “Now Kaavan might have a new partner, and share a new life with a partner.”

Kaavan waits to be transported to a sanctuary in Cambodia. Credit: AP

Dr Khalil described how on Sunday he slowly and gently cajoled Kaavan to walk backwards into a steel crate, as nearly a dozen men carefully guided him inside using chains around his tree trunk-sized legs.

Kaavan is set to leave aboard a Russian cargo plane for the 25,000-acre sanctuary on Monday.

Dr Amir Khalil feeds the elephant Credit: Anjum Naveed/AP

The plight of the male Asian elephant, who has been alone since the death of his partner Saheli in 2012, has captured worldwide attention.

Cher’s animal welfare group Free the Wild has worked with Four Paws and the American syndicated columnist and philanthropist, Eric Margolis, to relocate Kaavan. She is also making a documentary film about the process.