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Pakistan: 'World's loneliest elephant' departs Islamabad zoo for sanctuary in Cambodia03:10

Pakistan: 'World's loneliest elephant' departs Islamabad zoo for sanctuary in Cambodia

Pakistan, Islamabad
November 29, 2020 at 15:42 GMT +00:00 · Published

Kaavan, Pakistan's famous Asian elephant who has spent years in chained isolation, departed Islamabad zoo for Cambodia on Sunday.

"We would like to say that although we are very sad to see him go, we think it is the right decision to let him go at this stage and to retire him," said Malik Amin Aslam, the Pakistani Federal Minister present for the occasion, of the elephant that spent 35 years in captivity in the Islamabad zoo.

Kaavan's story at the zoo began in the 1980s when Pakistan's then-military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq brought the animal into the country as a gift for his daughter. Although the ruler's daughter was surprised with the elephant, he was brought to live in the zoo in order to have adequate care.

However, animal rights activists later discovered that the zoo lacked even basic medical facilities, and the animal showed signs of physical and psychological trauma.

According to reports, Kaavan's handlers routinely struck him with bull hooks to control his behaviour and force him to greet guests at the zoo. His legs also showed signs of scarring from chains.

Kaavan's one saving grace, reports say, was his female companion Saheli. Elephants are very social animals that form close emotional bonds with their relatives, and Kaavan's reportedly began act more aggressively and showed signs of what some reports call "zoochosis" after Saheli died in 2012. Official accounts say Saheli died of a heart attack, but animal rights activists claim it was due to infection caused by being struck with a bull hook.

American singer and pop icon Cher, who cofounded a wildlife protection charity, learned of Kaavan's story and cooperated with volunteers from Four Paws International (FPI), an animal rights group, and hired a legal team to begin to fight for Kaavan's release, which they secured earlier this year in May.

The head of the FPI team tasked with finding a plan for Kaavan's trip to his new home in Cambodia, Dr. Amir Khalil, had to deal with an aggressive elephant and find a way to entice it into a cage for the long journey. Khalil would initially keep his distance from Kaavan so as not to start the animal and for his own safety, and began singing as a way to pass the time. To his surprise, he noticed the animal began to respond positively to his songs, and the two began to form a friendship. Eventually, Khalil had earned the trust of the animal and it was decided Kaavan was ready to go to Cambodia.

Khalil was seen reassuring the animal and stroking his trunk as Kaavan was being loaded into his specially designed cage for the trip.

Reports say that Kaavan will still face difficulties adjusting to his new life in the wildlife sanctuary, but that he can look forward to proper care and treatment.

Pakistan: 'World's loneliest elephant' departs Islamabad zoo for sanctuary in Cambodia03:10
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Kaavan, Pakistan's famous Asian elephant who has spent years in chained isolation, departed Islamabad zoo for Cambodia on Sunday.

"We would like to say that although we are very sad to see him go, we think it is the right decision to let him go at this stage and to retire him," said Malik Amin Aslam, the Pakistani Federal Minister present for the occasion, of the elephant that spent 35 years in captivity in the Islamabad zoo.

Kaavan's story at the zoo began in the 1980s when Pakistan's then-military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq brought the animal into the country as a gift for his daughter. Although the ruler's daughter was surprised with the elephant, he was brought to live in the zoo in order to have adequate care.

However, animal rights activists later discovered that the zoo lacked even basic medical facilities, and the animal showed signs of physical and psychological trauma.

According to reports, Kaavan's handlers routinely struck him with bull hooks to control his behaviour and force him to greet guests at the zoo. His legs also showed signs of scarring from chains.

Kaavan's one saving grace, reports say, was his female companion Saheli. Elephants are very social animals that form close emotional bonds with their relatives, and Kaavan's reportedly began act more aggressively and showed signs of what some reports call "zoochosis" after Saheli died in 2012. Official accounts say Saheli died of a heart attack, but animal rights activists claim it was due to infection caused by being struck with a bull hook.

American singer and pop icon Cher, who cofounded a wildlife protection charity, learned of Kaavan's story and cooperated with volunteers from Four Paws International (FPI), an animal rights group, and hired a legal team to begin to fight for Kaavan's release, which they secured earlier this year in May.

The head of the FPI team tasked with finding a plan for Kaavan's trip to his new home in Cambodia, Dr. Amir Khalil, had to deal with an aggressive elephant and find a way to entice it into a cage for the long journey. Khalil would initially keep his distance from Kaavan so as not to start the animal and for his own safety, and began singing as a way to pass the time. To his surprise, he noticed the animal began to respond positively to his songs, and the two began to form a friendship. Eventually, Khalil had earned the trust of the animal and it was decided Kaavan was ready to go to Cambodia.

Khalil was seen reassuring the animal and stroking his trunk as Kaavan was being loaded into his specially designed cage for the trip.

Reports say that Kaavan will still face difficulties adjusting to his new life in the wildlife sanctuary, but that he can look forward to proper care and treatment.

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