'World's Loneliest Elephant' Makes a Friend

Kaavan moves to a sanctuary after 8 years of being alone.

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Kaavan reaches out to another elephant at his new sanctuary home.
Kaavan reaches out to another elephant at his new sanctuary home.


Kaavan is lonely no more.

After spending eight years as the only elephant in Pakistan's Marghazar Zoo, the Asian elephant has been moved to a sanctuary in Cambodia where he quickly reached out and made contact with another elephant.

Kaavan had been alone in his enclosure since his partner Saheli died in 2012. There were no other Asian elephants in all of Pakistan, so he was unable to socialize with other elephants.

But after months of planning, global animal rescue group FOUR PAWS transported Kaavan to his new home at the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary in Siem Reap Province earlier this week.

“Kaavan’s transfer went as smoothly as anyone could hope. The months of training and preparation by the FOUR PAWS team all paid off and he coped remarkably well with the journey. In fact, he behaved like a frequent flyer and took it all in his stride!" Hannah Baker, head of communications for FOUR PAWS, tells Treehugger.

"Now he is adjusting to his life in Cambodia and acclimatising. The new surroundings and fellow elephants will take some getting to use, but initial signs show that he is adjusting well and is keen to explore more and get to his new friends.”

Not long after arriving at his new home, Kaavan reached out and extended his trunk to one of the first elephants he saw. A FOUR PAWS team member captured the moment above. The group posted it to Facebook, saying:

This photo doesn't need much explanation! We can now officially call him the "former loneliest elephant in the world"! Seeing Kaavan interacting with other elephants is a huge moment for us but more importantly for Kaavan. This is his first contact with an elephant in eight years. The whole FOUR PAWS team is extremely moved and we could not be prouder. Kaavan will finally have the chance to live a species-appropriate and peaceful life.

Making the Trip

Kaavan is loaded for his big trip.
Kaavan is loaded for his big trip. FOUR PAWS / Hristo Vladev

FOUR PAWS team members worked for weeks to familiarize the 36-year-old Kaavan with his crate so that the seven-hour flight and transport to his new home would be less stressful.

For now, Kaavan will be quarantined in a fenced-in enclosure that is about an acre. After that, he'll move to a large enclosure and then, after full rehab, he'll be able to roam in a fenced-in acre that covers several hectares of land. He'll live with three female elephants.

The move was made in conjunction with Pakistani authorities, American businessman and journalist Eric S. Margolis, and the nonprofit group Free The Wild cofounded by Cher. She worked to raise awareness of Kaavan's situation and was by his side as he left the zoo in Pakistan.

“My wishes have finally come true," Cher said in a statement. "We have been counting down to this moment and dreaming of it for so long and to finally see Kaavan transported out of Marghazar zoo will remain with us forever.”

About the Zoo

With Kaavan's departure, the Marghazar Zoo will soon be closing permanently. Originally opened as a wildlife sanctuary in 1978, it was later converted into a zoo.

The facility has been in the news in recent years due to poor conditions. According to FOUR PAWS, more than 500 animals have been reported missing and, in just the last four years, more than two dozen zoo animals have died.

Before Kaavan, FOUR PAWS worked with the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board to relocate three wolves, several monkeys, and all the rabbits that lived in the zoo. Now, only two Himalayan brown bears, one deer, and one monkey remain there.

The rescue organization plans to bring the former dancing bears, Suzie and Bubloo, to Jordan in mid-December. Plans for the monkey and deer are being finalized.

View Article Sources
  1. FourPaws. "From The Loneliest To The Luckiest Elephant!". FOUR PAWS International - Animal Welfare Organisation, 2020.