Human Interest

Elephant that captured Cher’s heart prepares for retirement in Cambodia

Islamabad, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- Kaavan the elephant is on Sunday spending his final day in the Islamabad zoo where he has lived for 35 years before he travels to Cambodia to retire in a sanctuary thanks to a campaign led by the singer Cher.

“We have been counting down to this moment and dreaming of it for so long and to finally see Kaavan transported out of the zoo will remain with us forever,” Cher, who has been in Pakistan for the last few days, said in a statement with her charity Free the Wild.

The 37-year-old, five-ton mammal was sedated and a 20-strong work team got him into a container that was then loaded onto a truck for transportation to the airport in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

Kaavan will be flown on Monday morning to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap with a stopover in Delhi.

Once there, he will first spend a period in quarantine until he is ready to meet with the other elephants.

The complicated operation comes after months of preparing Kaavan, who has suffered from weight issues and mental problems. He has lived alone since the death of Saheli, a female elephant, in 2012.

Amir Khalil, from Four Paws International, is overseeing the transport of the elephant. He has spent the last few months spending time with Kaavan and singing him Frank Sinatra songs.

“I noticed that the elephant really needed to bond. No one really cared for the elephant for many many years,” Khalil, an Egyptian vet based in Austria, told Efe.

He has decades of experience evacuating animals from conflict zones like Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip.

The elephant’s fate has been hanging in the balance for many years.

In 2016 the Pakistani parliament recommended that the animal, given as an official gift by the Sri Lankan government in 1986, should be released in a sanctuary due to its bad state, but the step was never carried out.

However, animal rights activists soon launched a campaign to free the pachyderm that has finally paid off. EFE-EPA

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