Times Colonist

Cher vis­its Pak­istan to help ‘ world’s loneli­est ele­phant’

- Animals · Animal Rights · Wildlife · Ecology · Pakistan · Islamabad · Imran Khan · Cambodia

ISLAMABAD — Singer and ac­tor Cher is in Pak­istan to cel­e­brate the de­par­ture of Kaa­van, dubbed the “world’s loneli­est ele­phant,” who will soon leave a Pak­istani zoo for bet­ter con­di­tions after years of lob­by­ing by an­i­mal rights groups and ac­tivists.

Be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns, Cher’s sched­ule was not made pub­lic. How­ever, she met Fri­day with Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan and was ex­pected to visit Kaa­van later in the trip, ac­cord­ing to the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice. Khan’s of­fice re­leased a video of the singer sit­ting with the prime min­is­ter out­side on the ex­pan­sive grounds of Khan’s res­i­dence.

Kaa­van has lan­guished in the zoo for 35 years, and lost his part­ner in 2012. He was di­ag­nosed by vet­eri­nar­i­ans as both over­weight and mal­nour­ished, and also suf­fers be­havioural is­sues due to his iso­la­tion.

Kaa­van is set to leave for a sanc­tu­ary in Cam­bo­dia on Sun­day, said Martin Bauer of Four Paws In­ter­na­tional, a global an­i­mal wel­fare group that’s led the charge to save him since 2016.

Cher took up Kaa­van’s cause and has been a loud voice ad­vo­cat­ing for his re­set­tle­ment. Four Paws, which of­ten car­ries out an­i­mal-res­cue mis­sions, has pro­vided the med­i­cal treat­ment needed be­fore Kaa­van can travel and will ac­com­pany him to the sanc­tu­ary.

Even after he’s in Cam­bo­dia, he’ll re­quire years of phys­i­cal and even psy­cho­log­i­cal as­sis­tance, Bauer said.

Be­cause of the abysmal liv­ing con­di­tions blamed on sys­temic neg­li­gence, Pak­istan’s high court in May or­dered the clo­sure of Marg­hazar Zoo in the cap­i­tal of Islamabad, where Kaa­van has lived for much of his life.

A med­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion in Septem­ber showed Kaa­van’s nails were cracked and over­grown — the re­sult of years of liv­ing in an im­proper en­clo­sure with floor­ing that dam­aged his feet.

The ele­phant has also de­vel­oped stereo­typ­i­cal be­hav­iour, shak­ing his head back and forth for hours, which the med­i­cal team of wildlife vet­eri­nar­i­ans and ex­perts blamed on his ut­ter bore­dom.

For the past three months, a Four Paws team in­clud­ing vet­eri­nar­ian Dr. Amil Khalil and the Islamabad Wildlife Man­age­ment Board has been ready­ing Kaa­van to leave.

Khalil first met Kaa­van in 2016, and re­turned to the zoo in Au­gust, where he was heart­bro­ken at the an­i­mal’s con­di­tion. Khalil has spent the last three months try­ing to get him ready for his trip to Cam­bo­dia.

Kaa­van was put on a diet of fruit and veg­eta­bles, and as a re­sult has lost half a ton [450 kilo­grams], he said. Pre­vi­ously, Kaa­van was eat­ing 250 kilo­grams of pure sugar cane ev­ery day, with an oc­ca­sional fruit and veg­etable.

The vet­eri­nar­ian said this was the first time in 30 years that he de­vel­oped a strong emo­tional bond with a res­cue an­i­mal. Now, the “world’s loneli­est ele­phant” comes lum­ber­ing over when he hears Khalil’s voice.

“I was al­ways mov­ing, so never al­lowed my­self to de­velop an emo­tional at­tach­ment,” but with Kaa­van he couldn’t re­sist, Khalil said.

He said he has pam­pered and pro­tected him for the past three months, ca­jol­ing him into los­ing weight as well as be­ing less fid­gety and more re­laxed so he can make the trip to Cam­bo­dia.

Khalil said there are many ele­phants at the sanc­tu­ary, but in par­tic­u­lar three fe­male ele­phants are await­ing Kaa­van’s ar­rival.

 ??  ?? Dr. Amir Khalil, a vet­eri­nar­ian from the an­i­mal wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tion Four Paws, com­forts Kaa­van dur­ing his ex­am­i­na­tion in Islamabad.
Dr. Amir Khalil, a vet­eri­nar­ian from the an­i­mal wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tion Four Paws, com­forts Kaa­van dur­ing his ex­am­i­na­tion in Islamabad.

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