It was his first contact with another elephant in eight years. Reaching out with his trunk, Kaavan tentatively greeted a fellow inhabitant of the Cambodian sanctuary. We are not crying, you are!
The 36-year-old bull elephant — dubbed the “world’s loneliest” — was the sole Asian elephant at the Marghazar Zoo. Animal rights groups launched a campaign to save him from the substandard conditions there. The campaign was boosted by spirited social media support from US actress and musician Cher.
Kaavan is beginning his new life. He has just been rescued from grim conditions in the Islamabad zoo.
He arrived in Cambodia on Monday to much fanfare — including a welcome from Cher herself. Popstar Cher not only traveled to see him off from Pakistan but also arrived ahead of him at Siem Reap airport.
Tuesday saw Kaavan settling into his enclosure at Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary. He was seen touching trunks with another elephant, captured in images provided by rights group Four Paws.
“The first contact with an elephant in eight years — this is a huge moment for Kaavan,” said Martin Bauer. He is a spokesman for the Austria-based group. The group worked for months to get him ready for the flight.
“Kaavan will finally have the chance to live a species-appropriate and peaceful life,” added Bauer. He said the entire team was extremely moved to witness the interaction.
“He has a very bright future ahead of him.”
Once Kaavan has adjusted to a “controlled setting”, he will be released into the wider sanctuary. There are three female elephants for Kaavan, an environment ministry official said on Monday.
The plan is to breed Kaavan with local elephants to “conserve the genetic fold”.
Kaavan’s seven-hour flight on a plane
Transporting an adult elephant by plane is no small task, and has only been undertaken a handful of times.
Helpers packed his trunk with 200 kilograms (450 pounds) of food. Kaavan snacked on it during the seven-hour flight aboard a jumbo Russian cargo plane. A tube system was installed in his transport crate to handle up to 200 liters (58 gallons) of urine.
Activists have accused the zoo in Islamabad of chaining Kaavan up. They also blamed it for not properly sheltering him during the searing summers.
Conditions were so bad that in May, the Islamabad High Court ruled that all the zoo’s animals should be relocated.
What do you think of this story? Let us know in the comments section below.