Kaavan: World’s loneliest elephant is finally free

Image Source: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

After many years of public uproar and protests by animal rights activists, Kaavan, a 36-year-old overweight bull elephant, is finally leaving the Islamabad Zoo in Pakistan to lead a peaceful retirement life in the one-million acre Kulen-Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia.

Kaavan’s substandard treatment at the poorly maintained zoo had sparked massive protests and an enthusiastic social media campaign to pressure authorities to move him to a better facility.

Kaavan, often called the loneliest elephant in the world because he was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan, spent decades entertaining crowds as his handlers prodded him with nailed bull hooks to make him perform various stunts.

Unfortunately, his only companion at the zoo – Saheli – an elephant from from Bangladesh passed away in 2012, further deteriorating his physical and mental health. His aggressive behaviour also raised concerns for his mental wellbeing and indicated that he faced psychological issues.

However, things changed when Oscar-winning actress Cher, who is also the co-founder of Free the Wild, a wildlife protection charity, became aware of his plight in 2016 and began campaigning actively for his release.

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

A team of experts from Four Paws spent hours gently persuading Kaavan into a metal crate designed specially for him to help him fly to Cambodia. He was also acclimatized to the noises he would experience on the flight and the small enclosure he would have to contain himself in.

The non-profit Free The Wild shared a message on its Instagram account about Kaavan’s release and journey.

Cher also expressed her happiness at the release, saying “I thought, ‘how can I fix this? How can I save an elephant who’s been shackled to a shed for 17 years and who is a thousand miles away?'” “This is Free The Wild’s first big rescue and I am so proud.”

Isn’t this a great example of how collaboration between various parties across the world can result in something wonderful! What do you think about Kaavan’s release? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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