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World's loneliest elephant starts a new life in sanctuary in Cambodia

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 Kaavan the Asian elephant has arrived in Cambodia
Kaavan the Asian elephant has arrived in Cambodia   -   Copyright  TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP or licensors

Kaavan, 'the world's loneliest elephant', has been making some much-needed friends on his first day in a sanctuary in Cambodia. He arrived there on Monday with celebrity friend, Cher.

The Asian elephant has spent his days at a dilapidated zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, ever since 1985. He was originally a gift from Sri Lanka. But the 36-year-old creature has endured a lonely life, especially after his only companion died in 2012.

When Kaavan's story got out, it sparked global uproar from animal rights groups and celebrities like Cher who launched a campaign to save him. A Pakistani court finally approved the elephant's relocation in May.

So how did he get to Cambodia? Transporting an adult elephant by plane is no small task, and has only been undertaken a handful of times.

Thankfully Kaavan's journey was "uneventful", said Amir Khalil, a veterinarian from animal welfare group Four Paws, adding that he behaved "like a frequent flyer".

"Kaavan was eating, was not stressed - he was even a little bit sleeping, standing, leaning at the crate wall," he said.

TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP
Buddhist monks perform a ceremony to bless the crate containing Kaavan the Asian elephant upon his arrival in Cambodia on November 30, 2020TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP

After the elephant's plane landed, Buddhists blessed the crate. Kaavan was then loaded into a truck for the three-hour journey to his new home.

The wildlife sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey province already shelters three female elephants.

Hopefully Kaavan will not be lonely anymore. "We expect to breed Kaavan with local elephants - this is an effort to conserve the genetic fold," said deputy environment minister Neth Pheaktra.