Thanks to Cher and a group of animal activists, the “World’s Loneliest Elephant,” will be lonely no more.
On Sunday, Kaavan is scheduled to depart for his new home, a sanctuary in Cambodia, said Martin Bauer, spokesman for Four Paws International, a global animal welfare group that's led the charge to save Kaavan since 2016.
Cher traveled to Pakistan on Friday to celebrate and visit the elephant. The celebrity has been an integral part in the cause to transfer Kaavan’s from his solitary enclosure to a happier home. Cher will accompany Kaavan to the sanctuary.
The star's travel plans were not made public due to security concerns.In Pakistan, she met with Prime Minister Imran Khan at his home.
In a tweet following her meeting, Cher said she thanked Khan “for making it possible for me to take Kaavan to Cambodia.” She tweeted she was making a film about Kaavan, saying, “think documentary will be heartwarming.”
Kaavan’s story had been quite dismal. The elephant has been at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, for 35 years, and for most of them, he was in chains.
In 2012, when Kaavan lost his partner, who reportedly died of an infection that turned gangrenous, things got worse.
Kaavan was heartbroken after his partner died, according to Dr. Amir Khalil, veterinarian with Four Paws, The Associated Press reported.
Activists named Kaavan the “World’s Loneliest Elephant" after his plight gained international attention and the unhappy elephant was diagnosed as emotionally, as well as physically, damaged, The AP reported.
Because of the abysmal living conditions blamed on systemic negligence, Pakistan's high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo.
A medical examination in September showed Kaavan's nails were cracked and overgrown — the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring that damaged his feet. He also developed behaviors including shaking his head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of wildlife veterinarians and experts blamed on his utter boredom, the news outlet reported.
For the past three months, a Four Paws team including veterinarian Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board have been readying Kaavan to leave.
Khalil first met Kaavan in 2016 and returned to the zoo in August, where he was saddened by the animal's condition. Khalil has spent the last three months trying to get him ready for his trip to Cambodia.
Kaavan was put on a diet of fruit and vegetables and has lost half a ton, he said. Previously, Kaavan was eating 550 pounds of pure sugar cane every day, with an occasional fruit and vegetable.
The veterinarian said this was the first time in 30 years that he developed a strong emotional bond with a rescue animal. Now, the elephant comes lumbering over when he hears Khalil's voice.
“I was always moving, so never allowed myself to develop an emotional attachment,” he said. But with Kaavan he couldn't resist.
Khalil said there are many elephants at his new home. In particular, three female elephants. Khalil joked that Kaavan might find a girlfriend there.
Bauer lauded the powerful impact of Cher's advocacy.
“Celebrities lending their voices to good causes are always welcomed, as they help start public discourse and raising pressure on responsible authorities,” he said.