World’s loneliest elephant gets new start after 8 years chained in Pakistan zoo

The world’s loneliest elephant has made friends for the first time in nearly a decade after languishing alone in a zoo for eight years.

The trunked beast, named Kaavan, has finally been moved to a cosy new home at a sanctuary in Cambodia after signer Cher campaigned for his rescue.

He spent a total of 35-years at Marghazar Zoo in Pakistan without socialising – and has been completely alone since his partner died in 2012.

Cher greeted him on the tarmac in Cambodia as he touched down along with vets who sat alongside him as he flew.

Pictured in a black face mask and white jacket, the legendary US superstar met the animal she had campaigned for so long to be relocated.

  • World's 'loneliest elephant' finally set for new life after nearly a decade alone

Cher had written songs pressing for Kaavan's release from grim, isolated conditions at Islamabad Zoo and she had spent the last few days with him in Pakistan.

The 36-year-old 9,000lb elephant was pictured making contact with a new friend with his trunk, seemingly keen to make a good first impression.

In May, Pakistan's high court ordered the closure of the zoo where the animal spent most of his life after it fell on hard times and was in poor condition.

On Sunday, wildlife workers and experts, led by animal rescue organisation Four Paws, winched a sedated Kaavan into a custom-designed crate to help move him.

He was lifted out of the enclosure on to a truck, where a military convoy escorted him to Islamabad's airport.

  • World’s loneliest elephant set to get a new home after 4,000km move across the planet

He took a 10-hour flight to Cambodia, having had a Covid-19 test, before a further five-hour truck journey to the city of Siem Reap, where the sanctuary is located.

Amir Khalil, a Four Paws vet, said: “The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant.

“Kaavan was eating, was not stressed, he was even a little bit sleeping, standing leaning at the crate wall. He behaves like a Frequent Flyer.”

Kaavan’s story touched the hearts of many supporters who campaigned for him to be relocated to a safer setting.

  • 'World's loneliest elephant' kept in chains for 35 years finally set for a new home

A petition to get him freed from Maraghazar Zoo was signed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Zoo bosses insisted four years ago that the elephant was no longer chained, but his long-awaited new mate never arrived.

He was forced to spend all his time alone.

They claimed he had only been chained when he suffered violent outbursts, but disturbing reports said Kaavan had been beaten to try to control his temper.

He was confined to a pen, just 90m by 140m, with little shelter from the baking sun.

Temperatures can soar to 40C in Islamabad, and the elephant had no shade.

Elephants are social animals and thrive on the company of others – so many have been keen to see Kaavan interact with his new pen-mates.

"Once Kaavan feels at home in a controlled setting, he will be released in a wildlife sanctuary, in Oddar Meanchey province, in the northern section of Cambodia, where some 600 Asian elephants live in peace and tranquillity," said a statement from Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry.

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