Cher Is Escorting The World’s Loneliest Elephant To Cambodia

TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

Cher Is Escorting The World’s Loneliest Elephant To Cambodia

TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

How’s that for a headline? The Los Angeles Times reports that Cher, the 74-year-old pop icon, is in Pakistan right now to escort Kaavan, the 35-year-old Asian bull elephant known as “the world’s loneliest elephant,” to a sanctuary in Cambodia. This relocation is the culmination of a years-long effort to rescue Kaavan from abusive captivity in a Pakistani zoo.

As a baby, Kaavan was gifted by the government of Sri Lanka to the head of the Pakistani army. He lost his mate, Saheli, in 2012, and spent 27 years in chains, beaten repeatedly, after trampling one of his keepers to death. Both overweight and malnourished and suffering from behavioral issues due to his isolation and mistreatment, experts say that Kaavan might require years of physical and psychological care to fully recover.

Cher, who cofounded the wildlife protection charity Free The Wild, hired a legal team to help free Kaavan after learning about his situation in 2016. In May, Pakistan’s high court finally ordered the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad closed, citing inhumane living conditions stemming from systemic negligence; all of the animals in the facility are being freed.

Kaavan will be transported to Cambodia aboard a Russian cargo lifter outfitted with a special stall, described by Cher as “a very huge dog crate.” Although details of Cher’s travel are being kept under wraps — the Smithsonian channel is filming a documentary about her trip — she is expected to take a separate flight and meet Kavaan in Siem Reap on Monday. From there, she will accompany the elephant as he is transported by truck to the Cambodian Wildlife Sanctuary, where he will share a jungle with three female elephants.

“For Cambodia, we are proud to have been chosen as a place for Kaavan. We will look after the elephant and take care of its health,” said Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry Of Environment. Cher said that she was “so proud” of her involvement in Kaavan’s rescue. “CANT WAIT TO SING TO HIM ON WAY TO CAMBODIA.I HAVE TWO SONGS,” she tweeted last month.

UPDATE: On 11/30 Cher greeted Kavaan in Cambodia, where the elephant will live free.

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