Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the “world’s loneliest elephant” embarked on Sunday on a mammoth move from Pakistan to retirement in a Cambodian sanctuary.
The famed singer and Oscar-winning actress has spent recent days at the Islamabad zoo to provide moral support to Kaavan — an overweight, 36-year-old bull elephant — whose pitiful treatment at the dilapidated facility sparked an uproar from animal rights groups and a spirited social media campaign by Cher.
“My wishes have finally come true”, Ms. Cher said in a statement.
Kaavan’s case and the woeful conditions at the zoo resulted in a judge this year ordering all the animals to be moved.
Experts spent hours coaxing a slightly sedated Kaavan into a specially constructed metal crate — at one point using ropes to help pull him in — that was to be hoisted onto a lorry and taken to Islamabad airport.
From there, Kaavan will be sent via a Russian transport jumbo jet for the lengthy flight to Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The plane will stop for refuelling in New Delhi.
Kaavan is the only Asian elephant in Pakistan.