Wikimedia Commons/Raph_PH/CC BY-SA 4
Wikimedia Commons/Raph_PH/CC BY-SA 4

Cher Recalls How She Started Journey of Rescuing Kaavan, 'World's Loneliest Elephant'

Odette Odendaal
Dec 03, 2020
03:00 A.M.

Kaavan, the Asian elephant, is settling into his new home. Thanks to relentless efforts from Cher, he is no longer the "World's Loneliest Elephant," a journey the singer reflected on following his safe arrival in Cambodia.


Late in November, Kaavan, the Asian elephant, arrived at a wildlife sanctuary where he will remain for the second half of his life. A great moment for everyone who knew of Kaavan's plight, especially for Cher, the one behind the gentle giant's rescue.

Now 36, Kaavan lived in a Pakistani zoo for 35 years before a plane swept him away to a better life. With no other elephants to socialize with since 2012, the shackled creature had become the "World's Loneliest Elephant." But that is only a part of Kaavan's story.

Cher arrives at the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors on December 02, 2018, in Washington, DC. | Source: Getty Images.

Cher arrives at the 2018 Kennedy Center Honors on December 02, 2018, in Washington, DC. | Source: Getty Images.


When Kaavan's plight blew up on social media, Cher recalled meeting a man by accident after dinner one evening years ago. They shared a ride, and during the trip, they struck up a conversation that included talk of elephants.


Cher never forgot the conversation she had with Mark Cowne that evening, so she decided to call him up and ask his help in saving Kaavan. Cowne agreed without hesitation, and so the rescue mission began in what they called "Free The Wild."


The "Believe" singer campaigned to have Billy the elephant rescued with the help of Lily Tomlin in August last year, but "failed miserably." Determined to deliver Kaavan to another fate, Cher pushed on despite the fear of another loss.


In partnership with Voice for the Animals Foundation, the two celebrities campaigned to have Billy removed from the Los Angeles Zoo, having found a new home for him at a sanctuary operated by the Performing Animal Welfare Society.


The 36-year-old elephant had one partner, Saheli, to socialize with at the Pakistani zoo, and when the Saheli died in 2012, Kaavan had little distraction from the surroundings.


Shackled, with no cover from the sun, no space to move around, no toys, no water in the pool, nothing. Then Cowne went over to Pakistan and stirred up some heat to get Kaavan's conditions improved while they work on his rescue.

The Pakistani high court ordered the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad to close in May, and due to a lack of funding, conditions deteriorated quickly. However, Cowne eventually got a roof over Kaavan's head, water into the pool, toys, and unshackled as well.



The "World's Loneliest Elephant" no more, Kaavan already met the other female elephants at his new home in Cambodia, and Cher was there to meet the rescued animal upon his arrival by plane.

Kaavan traveled well with no surprises, a big win since elephants are hardly ever relocated by plane. The bulk of their weight, their food and water required, and a suitable waste system during the flight all contribute to the arduous task faced by everyone involved.


Four Paws organized the Asian elephant's relocation, and veterinarian Amir Khalil who traveled with him on the plane, said that Kaavan was so relaxed that he even took a nap. Cher, along with other people involved in the rescue, was there to welcome the elephant when he landed on November 27.

The 74-year-old singer's efforts paid off, and followers on social media showered her with support and gratitude for saving the life of precious Kaavan.

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