It isn’t easy to move an elephant. Especially not a depressed one. That weighs five tons. By plane. To another country. During a global pandemic. But after four years of campaigning and planning – including a heroic effort by the singer, actress and animal advocate, Cher – Pakistan’s last Asian elephant has finally made the journey to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Now aged 36, Kavaan the elephant was given as a gift by Sri Lanka to Pakistan as soon as he was born. He’s lived at Marghazar Zoo near Islamabad his whole life – and spent the past 20 years in dire conditions, often with his legs chained. To make things worse, his partner, a female elephant called Saheli, died 6 years ago, leaving him all alone.
After Cher launched a campaign, 200,000 people around the world signed a petition calling for the Pakistani government to release Kavaan into a sanctuary where he could move around freely with other elephants. The case finally reached the Islamabad High Court, which ruled in his favour.
To get Kavaan ready for the journey, Dr. Amir Khalil, International Director of Project Development for the animal welfare charity Four Paws, travelled to Islamabad, where he developed a close bond with the elephant. Khalil had to address some of Kavaan’s health problems and get him used to the crate they would use for the plane journey. Kavaan also had to undergo a Covid-19 test.
No-longer-lonely Kavaan arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia on Monday 30th Novemeber, ready to start his new life in the vast Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, alongside other elephants.
“I am very proud of our organisation for making history with this rescue mission,” said Josef Pfabigan, Four Paws CEO, in a statement. “With Kaavan’s transfer to a species-appropriate sanctuary, we demonstrate how life for so many animals can be improved which are still kept in substandard zoos around the world. Four Paws stands for revealing suffering, rescuing animals in need and protecting them.”
Lead photo by Hristo Vladev, courtesy of Four Paws.