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Conservation

Cambodia ready to welcome ‘world’s loneliest elephant’

Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the "world's loneliest elephant" is set to arrive at its new home in a Cambodian sanctuary on November 30, ending its mammoth journey from Pakistan

Agence France-Presse
November 30, 2020
Cambodia ready to welcome ‘world’s loneliest elephant’
Officials of Four Paws International supervise as a crane places a crate carrying Kaavan, Pakistan's only Asian elephant, onto a trailer truck prior to transport it to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on November 29. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP

An elephant dubbed the “world’s loneliest” was set to land in Cambodia on Monday from Pakistan, headed for a sanctuary housing three potential mates, an official said.

The case of Kaavan — an overweight, 36-year-old bull elephant — sparked global uproar from animal rights groups, who petitioned for his move from an Islamabad zoo accused of substandard care and conditions.

His cause was boosted by a spirited social media campaign by American singer Cher, who travelled to Pakistan to see him off.

“Cambodia is ready to welcome Kaavan,” deputy environment minister Neth Pheaktra told AFP Monday.

The elephant is expected to land in tourist hotspot Siem Reap around 2 pm (0700 GMT), before being transported to neighbouring province Oddar Meanchey where a wildlife sanctuary awaits him.

“We expect to breed Kaavan with local elephants — this is an effort to conserve the genetic fold,” the minister said, adding that the sanctuary also houses three female elephants. 

Dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant by the press, Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan.

But the conditions at the Islamabad zoo were so bad that a judge in May ordered that all the animals be moved.

A team of vets and experts from Four Paws, an Austria-based animal welfare group, has spent months working with Kaavan to get him ready for the trip — a complicated process due to his size and the amount of food needed en route.

The elephant also had to be taught to enter the massive metal crate that was placed in a cargo plane for the seven-hour flight.

But “Kaavan quickly gained confidence in us and made great progress in a short time”, said Four Paws veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil in a statement Monday.

Four Paws, along with Islamabad authorities, also safely moved three wolves and some monkeys from the zoo. Currently only two Himalayan brown bears, one deer and one monkey remain.

Superstar Cher is expected in Cambodia to be part of Kaavan’s welcome entourage. 

© Agence France-Presse



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