World

'World's loneliest elephant' heads to Cambodia after Cher campaign

ISLAMABAD: Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the "world's loneliest elephant" embarked yesterday on a mammoth move from Pakistan to retirement in a Cambodian sanctuary.

The famed singer and Oscar-winning actress Cher has spent recent days at the Islamabad zoo to provide moral support to Kaavan - an overweight, 36-year-old bull elephant - whose pitiful treatment at the dilapidated facility sparked an uproar from animal rights groups and a social media campaign she led.

"My wishes have finally come true," the 74-year-old said in a statement thanking her charity Free The Wild.

"We have been counting down to this moment and dreaming of it for so long, and to finally see Kaavan transported out of (the Islamabad) zoo will remain with us forever."

Kaavan's case and the woeful conditions at the zoo resulted in a judge this year ordering all the animals to be moved.

"Thanks to Cher and to local Pakistani activists, Kaavan's fate made headlines around the globe and this contributed to the facilitation of his transfer," said Mr Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws International - an animal welfare group that has spearheaded the relocation effort.

Experts spent hours coaxing a slightly sedated Kaavan into a specially constructed metal crate - at one point using ropes to help pull him in - that was to be hoisted onto a lorry and taken to Islamabad airport.

From there, Kaavan will be sent via a Russian transport jumbo jet for the lengthy flight to Siem Reap in north-western Cambodia. The plane will stop for refuelling in New Delhi.

Cher spent several days in the Pakistani capital to visit Kaavan before the trip to a 10,000ha Cambodian wildlife sanctuary.

Officials said Kaavan will initially be kept in a small designated section of the park where he can see other elephants. - AFP

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