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Cher helps ‘world’s loneliest elephant’ to new life of freedom



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n elephant who has spent decades languishing alone in a zoo in Pakistan is finally to be sent home.

Kavaan, also known as the “world’s loneliest” elephant, is set to fly to Cambodia to see out the rest of his days in a sanctuary with others of his kind.

Cher’s animal welfare group Free the Wild has spent years working with fellow activists Four Paws International and American philanthropist Eric Margolis to relocate Kaavan — a mission that’s cost more than £350,000.  

She is also making a documentary film about the process.

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Cher met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan (right) during her trip to Islamabad

/ Pakistan’s Press Information Dep )

Conditions at the zoo in which Kavaan has spent the past 35 years were so bad that a court in Pakistan’s capital ordered its closure in August.

Earlier this year, the elephant was diagnosed as being dangerously overweight, owing to his unsuitable diet of around 250 kilogrammes of sugar cane every day.

But Dr Amir Khalil, a vet with Four Paws who has been treating Kaavan’s many wounds and ailments over the past three months, said he was hopeful about the next chapter of the elephant’s life.

“In the sanctuary in Cambodia… waiting for him are three ladies, three Asian female elephants,” Dr Khalil said.

“Now Kaavan might have a new partner, and share a new life with a partner.”

With the vet’s help, Kaavan lost 450kg over the past three months, and was down to a slimmer, more agile 4,000kg when he left the zoo on Sunday.

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Amir Khalil helped Kavaan lose 450kg in just three months

/ AFP via Getty Images )

Dr Khalil described how he gently cajoled Kaavan into a steel crate, as nearly a dozen men carefully guided him inside using chains around his tree trunk-sized legs.

Kaavan is set to leave aboard a Russian cargo plane for the 25,000-acre sanctuary on Monday.

For much of his time in Pakistan, Kaavan was kept chained in a small enclosure surrounded by a moat of water.

The floor irritated his feet and toenails, which are badly damaged and will require years of treatment in Cambodia, said Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws International. 

The elephant arrived in Pakistan as a gift from Sri Lanka when he was only a year old.

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The zoo once housed 500 animals, but by August barely 30 were still alive, and Kaavan’s condition had deteriorated.

“They always say it takes a village, but it took a whole country to get Kaavan moved to Cambodia,” Mr Bauer said as he applauded Pakistan’s Wildlife Foundation, which first sounded the alarm about Kaavan.

Along with the now internationally famous mamal, Four Paws has relocated about 30 animals from the site.

All that remain are a deer, a monkey and two retired dancing bears — Suzie and Bubaloo — whose teeth had all been removed by their previous owners to stop them from biting customers and the owners.

The bears will be relocated to Jordan in December with the assistance of the Princess Alia Foundation, headed by the eldest daughter of Jordan’s late King Hussein.