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'World's Loneliest Elephant' Arrives Safely at New Home

'The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 30, 2020 1:10 PM CST

(Newser) – The pachyderm dubbed the "world’s loneliest elephant" after languishing alone for years in a Pakistani zoo was greeted on his arrival in Cambodia on Monday by chanting Buddhist monks and then sent on his way to a wildlife sanctuary. Like other travelers during these times, Kaavan needed to be tested for COVID-19 before his flight. Once his large metal crate was safely on board, the 36-year-old, 9,000-pound Asian elephant was provided with in-flight snacks—440 pounds of them—for the seven-hour journey, the AP reports. Kaavan was not stressed during the flight, eating his food and even getting a little bit of sleep standing in his crate, says Amir Khalil, a veterinarian who accompanied him on the flight and works with Four Paws, the Vienna-headquartered animal rescue group that organized the move.

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"The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant," Khalil says. Kaavan, a 1985 gift from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, had been living in the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad with his partner Saheli, who died in 2012. The zoo fell on hard times and conditions got so bad that a court in the Pakistani capital ordered the zoo closed in August. The plight of the male Asian elephant has captured worldwide attention, including from Cher, who has been closely involved in his rescue and was in Cambodia for Kaavan's arrival. "Once Kaavan feels at home in a controlled setting, he will be released in a wildlife sanctuary, in Oddar Meanchey province, in the northern section of Cambodia, where some 600 Asian elephants live in peace and tranquility," said a statement from Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry.

(Read more elephant stories.)

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