Kaavan, Pakistan's lonesome elephant, starts new life in Cambodia

CAMBODIA-PAKISTAN-ANIMAL-WILDLIFE

Pakistan's lonely elephant Kaavan arrived in Cambodia by cargo plane on Monday to start a new life with 600 fellow pachyderms at a local sanctuary, the result of years of campaigning for his relocation by American singer Cher.

Cher was on the tarmac at the airport of Cambodia's second-biggest city Siem Reap to greet the elephant and met the vets who accompanied Kaavan on his long journey in a custom-made crate, with more than 200 kg (441 lbs) of food to keep him busy.

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 on Tuesday at a sanctuary.

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Elephant starts new life thanks to Cher
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Elephant starts new life thanks to Cher
American icon Cher, center, watches as a rescued elephant named Kaavan arrives at the international airport, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Kaavan, dubbed the world's loneliest elephant after living alone for years in a Pakistani zoo, has captured worldwide attention, including Cher, who has been closely involved in his rescue. The elephant will join other elephants in a waiting sanctuary. (Pool Photo via AP)
American icon Cher holds a welcoming sign for a rescued elephant named Kaavan arriving at the airport, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Kaavan, dubbed the world's loneliest elephant after living alone for years in a Pakistani zoo, has captured worldwide attention, including Cher, who has been closely involved in his rescue. The elephant will join other elephants in a waiting sanctuary. (Pool Photo via AP)
Pakistani wildlife workers and experts from the international animal welfare organization Four Paws, secure a crate carrying an elephant named Kaavan on a truck before transporting him to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kavaan, the world's loneliest elephant, became a cause celebre in part because America's iconic singer and actress Cher joined the battle to save him from his desperate conditions at the zoo. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Pakistani wildlife workers and experts from the international animal welfare organization Four Paws, arrange an elephant named Kaavan into a crate before he is transported to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kavaan, the world's loneliest elephant, became a cause celebre in part because America's iconic singer and actress Cher joined the battle to save him from his desperate conditions at the zoo. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Pakistani wildlife workers arrange an elephant named Kaavan into a crate for transporting him to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kavaan, the world's loneliest elephant, who became a cause celebre in part because America's iconic singer and actress Cher joined the battle to save him from his desperate conditions at the zoo. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Pakistani wildlife workers and experts from the international animal welfare organization Four Paws, use a crane to move a crate carrying an elephant named Kaavan before transporting him to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. Kavaan, the world's loneliest elephant, who became a cause celebre in part because America's iconic singer and actress Cher joined the battle to save him from his desperate conditions at the zoo. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
A photographer takes a picture of an elephant named "Kaavan" waiting to be transported to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Maragzar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. Iconic singer and actress Cher was set to visit Pakistan on Friday 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. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)
Actress Cher holds a "Free Billy" t-shirt Wednesday Jan. 28, 2009 at the Los Angeles City Council chambers to urge scapping construction plans on the Los Angeles Zoo's $42 million elephant exhibit, in Los Angeles. The City Council voted Wednesday to finish the elephant exhibit and keep its lone pachyderm Billy at the zoo, despite pleas by celebrity opponents to scrap the project. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
US pop singer Cher gestures in front of the crate of Kaavan the Asian elephant upon his arrival in Cambodia from Pakistan at Siem Reap International Airport in Siem Reap on November 30, 2020. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP) (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)
Kaavan the Asian elephant is greeted upon his arrival at his new home in the Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey Province on November 30, 2020, after he was welcomed by US pop singer Cher earlier in the day in Siem Reap upon his arrival from Pakistan. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP) (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)
US pop singer Cher poses in front of the crate containing Kaavan the Asian elephant upon his arrival in Cambodia from Pakistan at Siem Reap International Airport in Siem Reap on November 30, 2020. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP) (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)
Amir Khalil (L), a veterinarian and director of the project development for Four Paws International and Frank Goeritz, head veterinarian of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research examine Kaavan, Pakistan's only Asian elephant, prior to transport it to a sanctuary in Cambodia, at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on November 29, 2020. - Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the "world's loneliest elephant" was poised on November 29 to embark on a mammoth journey from Pakistan to a sanctuary in Cambodia. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Aamir QURESHI has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Kaavan] instead of [Kavaan]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
Veterinarians of Four Paws International measure Kaavan, the elephant slated to be moved to a sanctuary in Cambodia after it became the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by music star Cher, at the Marghazar Zoo, in Islamabad on September 4, 2020. - A team of international vets using tranquiliser darts, flatbreads and the soothing lyrics of Frank Sinatra conducted a medical examination on September 4 on Pakistan's only Asian elephant, ahead of his planned move to Cambodia. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Local wildlife officials and veterinarians of Four Paws International feed Kaavan, the elephant slated to be moved to a sanctuary in Cambodia after it became the subject of a high-profile rights campaign backed by music star Cher, before a medical examination of relocation at the Marghazar Zoo Islamabad on September 4, 2020. - A team of international vets using tranquiliser darts, flatbreads and the soothing lyrics of Frank Sinatra conducted a medical examination on September 4 on Pakistan's only Asian elephant, ahead of his planned move to Cambodia. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP) (Photo by AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)
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"Kaavan was eating, was not stressed, he was even a little bit sleeping, standing leaning at the crate wall. He behaves like a Frequent Flyer," said Amir Khalil, a Four Paws vet.

"The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant."

The multi award-winning singer posed for pictures at the airport in sunglasses and a black facemask holding up a Pakistan vehicle license plate bearing her name and that of the elephant.

Cher had written songs pressing for Kaavan's release from grim, isolated conditions at Islamabad Zoo and she had spent the last few days with him in Pakistan.

Dozens of wildlife workers and experts led by Four Paws had used a winch and rope to pull the sedated elephant into the crate before he was loaded onto the Russian-built cargo plane.

His crate had the words #FreeKaavan painted on the outside.

Neth Pheaktra, Secretary of State and spokesman of Cambodia's Environment Ministry, lauded Four Paws and Cher for their efforts to help Kaavan and said Cambodia would be the ideal home for him.

"Cambodia is pleased to welcome Kaavan. No longer will he be the world's loneliest elephant," he said at a welcome ceremony.

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