Human Interest

World’s ‘loneliest elephant’ finds new home in Cambodia

Bangkok, Nov 30 (efe-epa).- An elephant known as the loneliest in the world after living along for 35 years in a Pakistan zoo arrived Monday in Cambodia, where he will live in a sanctuary following a campaign led by American singer Cher, who met him at the airport.

Kaavan, a 37-year-old pachyderm of 5 tons, traveled the close to 4,000 kilometers that separate Islamabad airport from Siem Reap, the Cambodian city closest to the Kulen Prom Tep sanctuary, where he will live with hundreds of other elephants and wild animals

After arriving, operators removed the container of the Russian cargo plane in which they made the trip, with a stop in Delhi to refuel.

Cher, wearing a black mask and a welcome sign, waited for Kaavan with local authorities as Buddhist monks blessed the container.

“We have counted the days and dreamed of this moment for a long time and finally seeing Kaavan outside the zoo will be a memory that will always remain with us,” the singer said Sunday in a statement, having spent the last days in the Pakistani capital with her organization Free the Wild, before flying to Cambodia.

Kaavan will fist live alone and be allowed to join other elephants in the wild within the reserve when he is ready to socialize.

The Cambodian Environment Ministry said Monday that when Kavaan feels comfortable in a controlled environment, he will be released into the sanctuary, where about 600 Asian elephants live.

He received the “loneliest elephant” title from animal groups, which – driven by Cher – had been calling for years for a better home than the decrepit Pakistani zoo where she lived since her companion Saheli died in 2012.

The loneliness and harsh conditions in which she has lived had been undermining her health and she suffered from being overweight, malnutrition and mental problems.

Four Paws International, which handled the transfer, and Free the Wild activists, said they hope these ailments will improve when the elephant is integrated into the Kulen Prom Tep reserve.

Located in northern Cambodia, close to the Thai border, Kulen Prom Tep is one of Cambodia’s most biodiverse nature reserves and has survived the deforestation the country has suffered in recent decades.

Kaavan’s fate has been in the air for years. In 2016, the Pakistani Parliament recommended that the elephant, an official gift from the Government of Sri Lanka in 1985, be released in a sanctuary due to its poor condition, good intentions that have come to nothing.

But animal rights activists launched a campaign for the release of the elephant, which ultimately ended with success.

The life expectancy of an Asian elephant exceeds 50 years, although according to a study in the journal Science in 2008, those in captivity tend to have shorter lives. EFE-EPA

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