How Singer Cher Helped Save The Loneliest Elephant in The World
Everyone likes happy endings, and this might be one of the best happy endings to a sad, unfortunate, painful and depressing backstory. Suppose you’ve never heard of the “Free Kaavan” trend on Twitter. In that case, this is the story of Kaavan- an elephant in captivity in a small zoo in Pakistan. The elephant had been suffering for years in confinement and had many psychological issues, which led him to kill 2 of his caretakers out of frustration. Eventually, his salvation came from the world-famous pop singer Cher, who fought a long and challenging legal battle for his release.
16 The ‘Goddess of Pop’ is famous for helping rehabilitate captive elephants back into the wild
Cher never planned to help get an elephant that weighed 8,700 pounds out of a zoo in Pakistan. But after seeing many calls on Twitter to “Free Kaavan” in 2016, the “Goddess of Pop” called Mark Cowne, a businessman she had met at a party and who had helped move elephants in Africa. Cher says, “All of a sudden, I was just doing it. I didn’t expect anything, but I was going to say to myself, ‘Yeah, you tried.”
15 Cowne agreed to support and help her with this case
Cowne, on the other hand, surprised her by agreeing to fly to Pakistan later that week. Cowne used to help get elephants and other animals back into the South African Madikwe Game Reserve. On the other hand, Cher didn’t know that she had just signed up for a five-year mission involving dozens of collaborators around the world, a first-of-its-kind legal ruling in Pakistan talks with the governments of three countries, and, to top it all off, a pandemic. “Cher and the Loneliest Elephant,” a new documentary on the Smithsonian Channel, tells the story of that trip. It is available to stream on Paramount+.
14 Kaavan was sent to Pakistan’s president’s daughter as a gift in 1985
After Kaavan the elephant was born in Sri Lanka in 1985, he was sent right away as a gift to the daughter of the president of Pakistan. The elephant ended up in the Islamabad Zoo, where he lived in a small area with a friend named Saheli. The two were often held down and didn’t get enough food, water, or fun things to do. In 2012, Saheli died of gangrene caused by an infection from her chains. This left Kaavan alone.
13 Kaavan suffered the same fate as almost every elephant in captivity
Kaavan suffered, just like many other elephants who were kept in captivity. He got fat and started doing strange things over and over, like rocking all the time. Cher says, “When an elephant is making those movements—their body’s going one way, their head is going another way—you know they’re in deep psychological despair.” Kaavan’s anger and frustration led him to kill two of his keepers, so the zoo decided to keep him in chains for good.
12 Keeping elephants in captivity is a serious issue
About 16,000 elephants are kept in zoos and other places, and 377 of them live in the United States. Some are used for work and transportation in Asia, while others are kept in zoos and circuses. Elephants don’t breed well in the wild, so many elephants in captivity, especially those used for shows, are taken as babies. This can hurt conservation efforts, but Nitin Sekar, the national lead for elephant conservation at WWF-India, says that animal welfare is the biggest problem in the industry.
11 Elephants are not suited to live in small enclosures
Even though not all elephants are kept in horrible conditions, they have traits that make them especially bad at living in a cage or small enclosures, such as their need to move long distances, their desire for complex social lives, and their high intelligence. Sekar says that most places that keep elephants can’t meet these natural needs, and many places abuse elephants on purpose.