London 24 August 2022 – It has been almost two years since Kaavan, the “loneliest elephant in the world” made headlines all across the globe. In a spectacular effort, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS rescued the 38-year-old elephant from a run-down zoo in Pakistan and relocated him to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary for elephants in December 2020.
Earlier this week Kaavan’s rescuers from FOUR PAWS paid him the first visit since his arrival in Cambodia and Kaavan welcomed them like old friends – with a raised trunk.
In 2020, FOUR PAWS vet Dr Amir Khalil spent weeks with Kaavan preparing him for the super-size plane transfer and forming a bond with the elephant.
Since then, Kaavan’s life has changed in so many ways. He now lives alongside other elephants in a spacious jungle enclosure. Gone are the sad and lonely days from his past.
“Rescuing Kaavan back in 2020 has been one of the most memorable moments of my entire life.
“Before coming here today I often wondered how Kaavan would react when he sees me. When I approached I could tell that he is doing so much better than when we last met 18 months ago.
“Kaavan looked me in the eyes, and then suddenly, he raised his trunk as if to greet an old friend. I couldn't help but sing the same song I had sung before I last left him, ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.”
Says Dr Amir Khalil, who led FOUR PAWS “heaviest” animal rescue mission.
An extraordinary elephant rescue
Kaavan came to Pakistan as a gift from Sri Lanka in 1985. From 1990 on, he lived with his partner Saheli, but since her death in 2012, Kaavan lived a lonely existence as the last Asian elephant in captivity in Pakistan. In May 2020, the Islamabad High Court decided that all animals living in Islamabad Zoo had to be relocated to sanctuaries, leading not only to the rescue of Kaavan but 38 other animals that FOUR PAWS relocated to species-appropriate new homes.
To prepare Kaavan’s historic transfer, the FOUR PAWS team practised with him the safe and stress-free entry and exit into and from the transport crate. Dr Khalil also used creative methods to keep Kaavan calm by serenading the elephant with Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’. Worldwide, only a handful of adult elephants have been relocated by plane. For FOUR PAWS it was the first elephant air transfer.