World News – AU – Kaavan’s not so lonely journey to freedom in Cambodia


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A global effort has helped move the « loneliest elephant in the world » with 600 other pachyderms to a new home.

An eight year struggle for the freedom of a majestic five-ton Asian elephant finally ended when a transport plane flew from Pakistan to Cambodia to drop it off on Monday.

American singer Cher – a longtime advocate of Kaavan’s freedom – was on the tarmac at the airport in the Cambodian city of Siem Reap to greet the elephant and meet the vets who accompanied him on his long journey in a bespoke box as 200 kg (440 pounds) of food to keep him busy.

Vienna-based animal rescue organization Four Paws said 36-year-old Kaavan, who has spent most of his life unaccompanied at an Islamabad zoo, will be released from his box on Tuesday in daylight in a sanctuary with 600 pachyderms.

Elephant Kaavan is finally moved from Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad to Cambodia. [Courtesy of Four Paws] Kaavan, a gift from Sri Lanka to Pakistan in 1985, lived with his partner Saheli, who died in 2012, at Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad.

The zoo was getting into difficult times and conditions became so bad that a court in the Pakistani capital ordered the zoo to be closed.

« Kaavan has become a symbol of hope and freedom for hundreds of captive elephants around the world, » said Owais Awan, an attorney who was part of the relocation project.

Marion Lombard, Assistant Head of Mission and Project Development Officer for Four Paws, was part of the team that accompanied Kaavan on his trip from Islamabad to Siem Reap.

Lombard spent almost three months with Amir Khalil, Four Paws Head of Mission in Islamabad, preparing for the trip.

She told Al Jazeera that she had mixed feelings with excitement and happiness for the elephant’s freedom from a small enclosure, but said at the same time that she was a bit sad too.

« I was quite moved by people who fought very hard for Kaavan. I am thrilled to see Kaavan begin another chapter in his life, ”said Lombard.

Kaavan was greeted with fanfare and media as the hand-painted crate went down the ramp.

There was an international team that made the trip possible, consisting of Four Paws, Free the Wild – led by Cher – and Eric Margolis, a US businessman who made the trip possible.

Cher arrived in Islamabad last week and met Prime Minister Imran Khan to thank him for his government’s efforts in releasing Kaavan.

Just came back from the meeting to thank Prime Minister Imran Kahn for making it possible for me to bring Kaavan to Cambodia. Kaavan will be born on 29. can leave for Cambodia. Think documentary is going to be heartwarming.

Kaavan first goes through a quarantine period and slowly gains access to enclosures in order to get used to the new environment.

In time he will be introduced to three Asian elephants in the sanctuary. This is a monitored effort to avoid any aggression from either side.

It looks perfect in the quarantine area of ​​the sanctuary for Kaavan @ftwglobal @GinaKrugco @sagancowne @cowne_mark @cher pic. Twitter. com / SAHTX1bgOB

Lombard explained how Khalil built a special bond with Kaavan and how they will both be staying in Siem Reap for the transition period.

« We handed him over and wherever he goes, Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary has great experience and very well trained staff in handling elephants – especially abused, traumatized and rescue elephants. ”

Khalil told Al Jazeera of Siem Reap that he was not concerned about Kaavan’s health or transition. The most important thing is how he comes into contact with other elephants, he said.

« I’ve never connected with an animal like Kaavan and he finally made a friend in me, but with other elephants he can have more friends who speak the same language . . . and someone who can hear you. « said Khalil.

« Mainly because he was so lonely for so many years. Elephants have great memories, he has seen so much and he will have great stories to tell his new friends. ”

Elefant, Cher, Pakistan, Cambodia

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