On Monday, Pakistan’s lonely elephant Kaavan arrived in Cambodia by cargo plane to start a new life at a nearby sanctuary with fellow pachyderms, the culmination of years of American singer Cher’s lobbying for his relocation.
Cher was pictured in sunglasses, black face mask and white jacket meeting the vets who accompanied the elephant, who made the long journey in a custom-made crate, on the tarmac at the airport of Cambodia’s second-biggest city, Siem Reap, to welcome Kaavan.
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Animal rescue group Four Paws said that Kaavan had another 90-minute trip ahead and would potentially arrive after nightfall at the sanctuary, but on Tuesday he would be released in daylight.
Kaavan was feeding, he wasn’t worried, he was even sleeping a little bit, leaning against the wall of the crate. Amir Khalil, a Four Paws vet, said, “He behaves like a frequent flyer.”
“It was an uneventful flight, which is all you can ask for when an elephant is transferred.”
Cher had written songs pressing for the release of Kaavan from bleak, lonely circumstances at Islamabad Zoo, and she had been in Pakistan with him for the last few days.
The multi-award-winning singer filmed the storey of Kaavan with a film crew and said she was proud to be part of an attempt to liberate an elephant that she said had been shackled in a shed for 17 years.
Before he was loaded into the Russian-built freight plane, scores of wildlife staff and specialists led by Four Paws used a winch and rope to drag the sedated elephant into the container.
To keep him occupied on his trip, Kaavan’s handlers took more than 200 kg of fruit, including bananas and melons.