An animal known as Pakistan’s lone elephant is coming to an end after a court declared him to be released from Islamabad Zoo – to the delight of his longtime champion, pop icon Cher.
Kaavan, a 33-year-old Asian elephant from Sri Lanka, has been the focus of a four-year campaign by Cher to secure his release from the Murghazar Zoo in Pakistan’s capital after the singer saw pictures of the elephant living alone and held miserably in chains in a small fence with only a small dirty pond to play in.
On Thursday, Islamabad̵
the news was met with triumph by Cher, who declared it to be one of the greatest moments of her life. Cher wrote on twitter saying tears rolled down her face at the decision. She thanked the Pakistani government and then just tweeted “Pakistani”.
Kaavan’s life has become a turmoil. He arrived in Pakistan as a year old, a gift to former Sri Lankan government dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, but began to be held in chains in 2002, as animal keepers were concerned about his increasingly violent tendencies.
He began to suffer further distress after his buddy Saheli, who arrived from Bangladesh in 1990, died in 2012. No other company was brought in for him, despite the fact that elephants were social animals in need of companions, and he began to be known as Pakistan’s lone elephant, cutting a sad figure in the zoo.
Kaavan’s suffering continued until recently. Last year, his users were suspended for stealing his food, and a few months ago it was discovered that wild pigs had been broken into his fence and stolen his bread and fruit. Kaavan also proved to be very dehydrated.
In 2016, his case was taken up by Cher, who sent a representative to the zoo to try to get him released from captivity, and a petition on his freedom had hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The singer said she could hardly believe that Kaavan’s freedom was now secured. “It’s so emotional for us that I have to sit down,” Cher tweeted.