An elephant dubbed the “world’s loneliest” was set to land in Cambodia on Monday from Pakistan, headed for a sanctuary housing three potential mates, an official said.
The case of Kaavan — an overweight, 36-year-old bull elephant — sparked global uproar from animal rights groups, who petitioned for his move from an Islamabad zoo accused of substandard care and conditions.
His cause was boosted by a spirited social media campaign by American singer Cher, who travelled to Pakistan to see him off.
Kaavan, a 1985 gift from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, had been living in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad with his partner Saheli, who died in 2012.
The zoo fell on hard times and conditions got so bad that a court in the Pakistani capital ordered it closed in August.
The plight of the male Asian elephant has captured worldwide attention.
Cher – a longtime advocate for Kaavan’s freedom – was on the tarmac at the airport of Cambodian city Siem Reap to greet the elephant and meet the vets who accompanied him on his long journey in a custom-made crate, with more than 200kg (440 pounds) of food to keep him busy.
“Cambodia is ready to welcome Kaavan,” deputy environment minister Neth Pheaktra told AFP Monday.
Animal rescue organisation Four Paws said 36-year-old Kaavan, who had spent most of his life at Islamabad Zoo without a companion, would be released from his crate in daylight today at a sanctuary.
Marion Lombard, Four Paws’ deputy mission leader and project development officer, was part of the team that accompanied Kaavan on his journey from Islamabad to Siem Reap.
Lombard spent almost three months alongside Amir Khalil, mission leader of Four Paws in Islamabad, preparing for the journey.
Kaavan was greeted with fanfare and media as the hand-painted crate made its way down the ramp.