(Updated May 26, 2020) | Cher took to Twitter last week to express her excitement at the release of Kavaan—Pakistan’s “loneliest elephant”—from the Islamabad Zoo.
The Pakistani court ordered the release of Kaavan following a high-profile campaign that the singer and actress led.
“We have just heard from Pakistan High Court Kaavan is free,” Cher tweeted.
In a separate tweet, she wrote: “this is one of the greatest moments of my life. Can’t stop [crying] … Kaavan is free. [Crying] down my cheeks, but he’s free and Mark Cowne did it.”
Businessman Mark Cowne co-founded Free the Wild with Cher and entrepreneur Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne. The animal rights organization campaigns to free mistreated animals from captivity.
According to The Guardian, Kaavan is a 33-year-old Asian elephant from Sri Lanka. The elephant first arrived at Murghazar Zoo in Pakistan when he was just one year of age. Cher has campaigned for Kaavan’s release for the last four years, after seeing pictures of the elephant wrapped in chains and living alone.
Reports state that Kavaan was suffering from dehydration and hunger. In the past, keepers have stolen food from him. Wild boars have also broken into his enclosure and eaten his food.
Non-Human Animal Rights
On May 21, the Islamabad high court ordered Kaavan’s release and said wildlife officials must retire the elephant to a permanent home in a sanctuary within 30 days.
Kevin Schneider, executive director for the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) welcomed the news. “[Islamabad’s] careful consideration of nonhuman animal rights alongside human rights and environmental protection is the only fitting judicial response to the existential crises faced by animals all over the world,” he said.
He added: “The bold step forward he has taken on behalf of oppressed nonhuman beings like Kaavan is laudable, as is the persistence of Kaavan’s advocates who’ve fought so tirelessly for him.”
The NhRP is currently working on freeing two other captive elephants—Happy and Minnie—from the Bronx Zoo and the Commerford Zoo,respectively.
Animals In Captivity
Kavaan became increasingly distressed after his mate Saheli died in 2012. No other elephant companion was brought in for him after their death, earning him the title of Pakistan’s loneliest elephant.
In the wild, elephants form intricate social relationships with other elephants, have extended family units, and are able to roam vast expanses of land. In captivity, elephants’ basic, complex physical, social, and psychological needs are more difficult to meet. The same goes for all other wild animals held in captivity.
Zoos and other attractions routinely force captive elephants and other animals to live in cramped enclosures that are typically concrete-based. These unnatural and uncomfortable living arrangements can cause health problems like foot disease and arthritis, reports National Geographic.
Animals held in captivity, including elephants, also tend to exhibit abnormal repetitive behaviors. Known as zoochosis, these behaviors include head bobbing, swaying, pacing, circling, and even self-harm.