Former 'Loneliest Elephant in The World', Kaavan, Reunites With Rescuers!
Siem Reap, Cambodia | 2022 08 21 | Elephant Kaavan in his enclosure being visited by Amir Khalil at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

For 35 years, Kaavan lived in a zoo in Pakistan, but thanks to a global network of rescuers – including South Africans – this big guy has found freedom and happiness… and recently gave all the love to his rescuers!


Global (25 August 2022) – It has been almost two years since Kaavan, the “loneliest elephant in the world”, made headlines all across the globe. In a spectacular effort, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued the 38-year-old elephant from a run-down zoo in Pakistan and relocated him to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary for elephants in December 2020.

Kaavan – the elephant – was just a year old when he came to Pakistan’s Marghazar Zoo in 1985 as a gift from Sri Lanka. He spent decades at the Islamabad Zoo in a small enclosure with few of the amenities required for the physical or mental health of an animal of such high intelligence. Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the “World’s Loneliest Elephant” made an arduous journey in 2020 from Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia where he finally found freedom.

On 22 August, Kaavan’s rescuers from FOUR PAWS paid him the first visit since his arrival in Cambodia and were welcomed like old friends – with a raised elephant´s trunk.

Veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil spent weeks with Kaavan in 2020, preparing him for the super-size plane transfer and forming a bond with the elephant.

Former 'Loneliest Elephant in The World', Kaavan, Reunites With Rescuers!
Siem Reap, Cambodia | 2022 08 21 | Elephant Kaavan in his enclosure being visited by Amir Khalil at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

Since then, Kaavan has regained his natural behaviours and lives near other elephants in a spacious jungle enclosure. Gone are the sad and lonely days from his past.

FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who has led FOUR PAWS “heaviest” animal rescue missions so far: “Rescuing Kaavan back in 2020 has been one of the most memorable moments of my entire life. Before coming here today I often thought how Kaavan would react when he sees me. When I approached Kaavan I could tell, that he is doing so much better than when we have last met, 18 months ago. Kaavan looked me in the eyes, and then suddenly, he raised his trunk as if to greet and old friend. I could not help but singing to him the same song I had sung before I left back then, My way by Frank Sinatra.”

CEO of global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, Josef Pfabigan, says: “It’s great to see Kavaan doing so well. Everyone who contributed can be proud of having secured a good life for him. However, a lot remains to be done for other animals in captivity. FOUR PAWS will keep up the direct work for animals in need. We will also keep up the policy work on the ground. The connection between policy decisions, animal welfare and human lives needs to be pointed out over and over.”

An extraordinary elephant rescue

Kaavan came to Pakistan as a gift from Sri Lanka in 1985. From 1990 on, he lived with his partner Saheli, but since her death in 2012, Kaavan lived a lonely existence as the last Asian elephant in captivity in Pakistan.

World's Loneliest Elephant Moved to a Sanctuary Thanks to Cher!!!
Photo Cred: FOUR PAWS | Saiyna Bashir

In May 2020, the Islamabad High Court decided that all animals living in Islamabad Zoo had to be relocated to sanctuaries, leading not only to the rescue of Kaavan but 38 other animals that FOUR PAWS relocated to species-appropriate new homes.

To prepare Kaavan’s historic transfer, the FOUR PAWS team practised with him the safe and stress-free entry and exit into and from the transport crate. Dr Khalil also used creative methods to keep Kaavan calm by serenading the elephant with Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. Worldwide, only a handful of adult elephants have been relocated by plane. For FOUR PAWS it was the first elephant air transfer.

Sources: FOUR PAWS
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