The World’s Loneliest Elephant Saved By Music


Esha Brar

Kaavan the elephant was recently given a glimmer of hope that he has needed after decades: love. Elephants are one of the most sensitive and intelligent species, and it is often said that elephants can and will die of a broken heart, or loneliness, with Kaavan’s story being something quite similar to this. Kaavan has been kept in very bad conditions in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, since 1985. He was first brought there as a gift from Sri Lanka at 1 year old but has been there ever since.

Many report the conditions that Kaavan lived in as absolutely horrid and cruel, stating that he was kept in chains for years, and did not receive appropriate veterinary care. The Islamabad High Court filed a case against the zoo in May stated that the animals kept in the Marghazar Zoo are always held in cruel conditions and that the zoo should be closed as a result.

Kaavan had an elephant partner, Saheli who had lived with him from 1990 to 2012. However, she had died due to an infection that became gangrenous (a lack of blood flood resulting in dead tissue throughout the body). Reports say that Kaavan was absolutely heartbroken when she died and that he has been alone every today. On Sunday, November 29th, Kaavan was finally given a chance to interact with other elephants and will move to an animal sanctuary in Cambodia.

Many activists all around the world, even local Pakistanis, and the singer whose music gave Kaavan hope have been campaigning for Kaavan’s release. In particular, the famous singer Cher made a particular emphasis on advocating for Kaavan’s release after hearing about his story, and how tragic it was. Cher actually visited Pakistan and met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, whom she thanked for allowing the elephant to be moved to a place where he will be happier and allowed to socialize with other elephants. The particular sanctuary where he is being transferred to has three females, in hopes that he will finally be able to socialize again, after being alone for so long. Because elephants are herd animals, there is a huge emphasis on forming families, and this is something many desire for Kaavan to be able to have and start a fresh life.

Cher has been able to bring attention to Kaavan’s story and the struggles that he has been through, but Four Paws is the leader in the operation to transport the 5-ton elephant on a plane to Cambodia. A spokesperson at Four Paws, Martin Bauer states, “‘Transferring an adult elephant on a plane is something very, very rare.’” He explains how the very few previous transfers that have occurred have also been through shorter distances in zoos across the U.S. Bauer explains that an elephant transfer of this scale is actually unprecedented. Kaavan will be loaded into a specially built crate, and then onto a cargo plane. Surprisingly, it was stated that he would be conscious for the whole 10-hour flight, with a staff of veterinarians, after which there will be a half an hour drive to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. The preparation of the transferring of Kaavan for this trip had started in July, and happily, everything is going according to plan.

While this travel will be difficult, Kaavan is very cooperative, and resilient despite all the struggles he has been through. His future looks promising, and with everything, he definitely deserves this transfer. This also goes to demonstrate how much of an impact celebrities can have on making a difference in important matters such as these, especially promoting animal activism for mistreated and endangered, yet extremely precious animals such as elephants.