How the “World’s Loneliest Elephant” Finally Got a Happy Home


How the “World’s Loneliest Elephant” Finally Got a Happy Home

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

In a happy conclusion to a story that unfolded over the weekend, Kaavan, an ailing Asian elephant housed in Islamabad Zoo, arrived in Cambodia to join others of his kind at an elephant sanctuary. Kaavan had been dubbed “the world’s loneliest elephant” by the media, as the jumbo was the only Asian elephant in all of Pakistan. His mate, a female elephant named Saheli, had died after arriving at Islamabad Zoo in 2012. Earlier this year, a judge had ordered that all the animals housed at Islamabad Zoo be moved due to the abysmal conditions there. Kaavan’s relocation to the sanctuary is the culmination of a multi-year effort by activists to rescue him from his plight.

One of Kaavan’s most famous supporters was the pop superstar Cher. Cher, who runs a charity called Free the Wild, was in the news over the weekend for making a visit to Islamabad to be present for Kaavan’s relocation. She was also thanked by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for bringing attention to Kaavan’s situation and securing a better future for him. Cher then flew to Siem Reap in Cambodia, to be present for Kaavan’s arrival in the country, before his transportation to the sanctuary. There are about 600 other elephants living at the sanctuary, ensuring Kaavan will not be “the world’s loneliest elephant” for much longer.

Kaavan is a 36-year-old bull elephant. Observers had described his condition as overweight, with many of his behaviours indicating that he was also suffering mental stress. Animal activists have been fiercely campaigning for him to be moved out of the Islamabad Zoo, where he was clearly in distress. The animal welfare group Four Paws was instrumental in arranging for Kaavan’s relocation to Cambodia.

As social animals ourselves, humans have learned how hard it is to go without company during the lockdowns of 2020. Thankfully, that won’t be a problem for Kaavan any more.