Pakistan’s lonely elephant ‘Kaavan’ leaves for Combodia

Kaavan elephant leaves for Cambodia

A 35-year-old elephant, ‘Kaavan’ is headed for a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia after his miserable condition at an Islamabad zoo in Pakistan sparked a global outcry. American singer Cher campaigned for his freedom for years.

Following years of public outcry and campaigning by Oscar-winning American singer and actor Cher, Kaavan is set to embark on a journey from Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia. Cher, who is financing half of the cost of Kaavan’s journey, visited Pakistan to oversee the elephant’s departure. She also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and other government officials on Friday. Activists around the world campaigned for Kaavan’s release, accusing Islamabad zookeepers of keeping him isolated, chained up and not providing the large animal with proper shelter and relief during hot summer months. They also fought a long legal battle for his freedom.

The overweight bull elephant’s miserable condition in an Islamabad zoo highlighted the woeful state of Islamabad’s zoo, where conditions are so bad a judge in May ordered all the animals to be moved. A special cargo plane was arranged to transport Kaavan to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia on Sunday, where authorities have made arrangements for his arrival. With music, treats and balloons, friends of Pakistan’s only Asian elephant threw a farewell party for the creature before its relocation to Cambodia following years of campaigning by animal rights activists.

Kaavan arrived in Islamabad from Sri Lanka as a young calf in 1985, as a gift from Colombo to the former dictator General Zia ul-Haq. Kaavan had been living in poor conditions in a small enclosure at Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad for more than three decades. His mate, Saheli, died in 2012, allegedly due to negligence and poor treatment by zoo authorities. In 2002, zookeepers said he was being temporarily chained due to increasingly violent behavior. He was freed later that year, but zoo officials later apparently resumed the practice.