Officials and well-wishers gathered at Islamabad Zoo yesterday for a farewell party for Pakistan’s lonely elephant Kaavan before it sets off for a new life in Cambodia this week.
After years of campaigning by animal rights advocates and pop star Cher to rescue it from grim conditions with no companion, Kaavan is finally set to be airlifted to an elephant sanctuary on Sunday.
To mark the occasion, officials, including lawmakers and Pakistan’s climate change minister, gathered among balloons and signs reading “Farewell Kaavan, we will miss you”.
Children posed for photos and musicians performed in front of the enclosure, with Kaavan at one point serenaded while it snacked on some grass.
Kaavan is known to be a fan of music and Amir Khalil, a vet from animal rescue organisation Four Paws, bonded with the elephant, which has been aggressive to humans in the past, by singing him Frank Sinatra songs.
Four Paws spokeswoman Marion Lombard said that though it is never easy to move a wild animal weighing 4.8 tonnes, Kaavan is responding well to training and is ready to leave.
“We decided to organise an event to give the opportunity to the people of Pakistan and the government to say goodbye to Kaavan, before (its) new life in Cambodia. So we want to wish (Kaavan) a happy retirement,” she said.
Kaavan will be airlifted to Cambodia after training for weeks with international specialists armed with treats such as bananas to get it used to the small enclosure and loud noises of the 10-hour flight.
Cher was due to arrive in Islamabad later in the week to finally meet the elephant that she had worked for years to rescue, and see it off.
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