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‘World’s Loneliest Elephant’ Arrives in Cambodia to Start New Life 


Kaavan the Asian elephant is greeted upon his arrival at his new home in the Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey Province on Nov. 30, 2020, after he was welcomed by US pop singer Cher earlier in the day in Siem Reap upon his arrival.

The pachyderm dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant” arrived in Cambodia Monday, following his rescue from a Pakistani zoo.

After a seven-hour flight from Pakistan in a custom-built enclosure, Kaavan was welcomed to Cambodia by chanting Buddhist monks and sent on his way to a wildlife sanctuary.

During his flight, the elephant reportedly ate 200 kilograms of snacks and took a nap.

"He behaves like a frequent flier. The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant," Amir Khalil, a veterinarian for the animal rescue group that accompanied Kaavan on the flight, according to AP. The vet works for the Vienna, Austria-based Four Paws animal rescue group, which organized the 36-year-old pachyderm’s rescue.

One reason Kaavan may have been somewhat relaxed is that he was trained three times a day for three months on how to enter and exit his special travel crate, AP reported.

Kaavan arrived in Pakistan in 1985 as a gift from Sri Lanka. He had been in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad. In 2012, his partner, Saheli, died due to a leg infection.

A Buddhist monk sprinkles holy water around the crate containing Kaavan the Asian elephant upon his arrival in Cambodia from Pakistan at Siem Reap International Airport in Siem Reap on November 30, 2020. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP)
A Buddhist monk sprinkles holy water around the crate containing Kaavan the Asian elephant upon his arrival in Cambodia from Pakistan at Siem Reap International Airport in Siem Reap on November 30, 2020. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP)

Campaigners say the heartbreaking image of Kaavan standing above the body of his partner shocked the world.

Kaavan was held in chains for years in an insufficient enclosure and was forced to perform in front of visitors in the poorly managed zoo.

An initial medical examination in September showed Kaavan’s nails had cracked and were overgrown due to improper care and an insufficient enclosure with flooring that damaged its feet. The elephant also developed a stereotypical behavior because of his loneliness, the cause of his shaking head back and forth for hours.

Kaavan was also obese, according to AP, which said he ate 250 kilograms of sugar cane daily. He reportedly lost 450 kilograms before his trip to Cambodia.

In addition to Four Paws, American singer Cher and her animal welfare group Free the Wild helped secure Kaavan’s release. Cher was in Pakistan Nov. 27 when she met with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"Cher has arrived and is so grateful for the help and support from the people of Pakistan to allow Kaavan to move to Cambodia and live out the rest of his life in peace and with dignity," Free the Wild co-founder Mark Cowne said in an email to VOA.

Kaavan will now be trucked to the animal sanctuary in northern Cambodia and should be out of his crate on Dec. 1.

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