Music, they say, soothes the savage beast. So maybe that’s why the story of iconic entertainer Cher and a lonely elephant named Kaavan will be remembered as one of melodic serendipity and good deeds.
Cher’s journey to Pakistan earlier this week reflects her unwavering compassion to save Kaavan, who had been kept in isolation in a zoo in Islamabad and had been called the world’s loneliest elephant.
Cher changed those dynamics by spearheading an effort to get him out of there.
It began with money of course. Cher helped pay for Kaavan’s relocation through her charity, Free the Wild Along, with the help of U.S. businessman Eric Margolis and the group Four Paws International. The elephant’s plight had been a cause for local Pakistani activists who had started a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #SaveKaavan and #FreeKaavan aimed at celebrities worldwide.
Cher took notice.
“They would not stop saying ‘Cher, you have to do something, you have to fix this, you have to save him,’” she said in a statement released by the Smithsonian Channel, which will air the documentary, “Cher’s Elephant Airlift,” next year. “I thought, how can I fix this? How can I save an elephant who’s been shackled to a shed for 17 years and who is a thousand miles away?”
Her timing was perfect. Kaavan was in bad shape. He had been gifted to Pakistan by Sri Lanka in the mid-1980s, when he was just a year old. Since then, Kaavan had spent decades at the zoo in a small enclosure. He became a type of circus performer who was prodded by his handlers to grab cash from tourists with his trunk.
Elephants are highly intelligent animals, and Kaavan was aware of his conditions. He gained weight and became obese.
The rescue effort included Cher, Free the Wild, a team of vets and experts from Four Paws. They spent months on-site, working with Kaavan to prepare him for his relocation. He lost weight. He began to act more and more like a normal elephant.
It was a massive effort. It was the Four Paws’ biggest elephant transfer the charity has ever undertaken, and their first by plane, head of communications Hannah Baker told CBS News.
Kaavan is now adjusting beautifully to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.
This past Saturday, the 74-year-old Cher travelled to Cambodia to welcome Kaavan to his new home, serenading him with music and feeding him treats after his long journey. We assume “I Got You Babe” was on the playlist.