Famous singer and actress Cher will visit Pakistan on Friday to celebrate the passing of Kaavan, dubbed the “world’s loneliest elephant,” who will soon leave the Pakistani zoo to be in better conditions after years of advocacy by animal rights groups.
Because of security concerns, Cher’s schedule has not been made public, but “she is on her way,” said Martin Bauer of Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal protection group, who led the mission to save Kaavan, said.
The elephant languished in the zoo for 35 years and lost its mate in 2012. It was diagnosed by veterinarians as being overweight and malnourished earlier this year and suffered from behavioral issues. He will be on his way to a reserve in Cambodia on Sunday.
Cher took on Kaavan’s reasoning and was a vocal advocate for his relocation. The Four Paws, which often perform animal rescue missions, provided the necessary medical treatment before Kaavan was able to travel. The battle to regain his place began in 2016.
Bauer told The Associated Press on Friday: “Thanks to Cher, as well as local Pakistani activists, Kaavan’s fate, made headlines around the world, and this contributed to facilitating his transfer.”
Bauer said even after being in Cambodia. He would need years of physical and even psychological support.
Due to poor living conditions attributed to the system’s negligence, Pakistan’s high court in May ordered the closure of Marghazar Zoo in the capital Islamabad, where Kaavan has lived for most of his life.
In September, a medical examination revealed Kaavan’s fingernails were cracked and overgrown – the result of years of living in an improper enclosure with flooring, which damaged his feet.
The elephant also developed stereotypical behavior, shaking its head back and forth for hours, which the medical team of veterinarians and wildlife experts blamed for its utter boredom.
Over the past three months, a team of Four Paws, including veterinarian Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board, has been ready for Kaavan to leave. Members of the welfare group will also accompany him to the reserve.
Bauer praised celebrity voices for having a powerful impact on animal rights.
He said: “Celebrities expressing their voices for good causes are always welcome, as they help start public discourse and put pressure on the responsible authorities.
“Globally, there are animal lovers, famous and not-so-famous, and the support of each and every one of them is vital,” he added.