Kaavan being shifted from a crate to a small transport crate for his onward journey to Cambodia. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: After spending some 35 years of his life at the Marghazar Zoo of Islamabad and experiencing hardships, misery and solitary confinement in a 500-sq metre enclosure, the world’s loneliest elephant Kaavan Sunday evening finally left for his new home, Cambodia’s sanctuary for the Asian elephants.

The news of the elephant being shifted to Cambodia spread like wildfire and the local residents, families, particularly the national and the international media made a beeline to the Marghazar Zoo of Islamabad which is located at the foot of the Margalla Hills.

They had arrived in the morning despite the fact Kaavan’s transfer from the zoo to the Islamabad International Airport completed later in the day.

Sarim, a young boy of 6 shared with Gulf News he felt deeply sad overs hifting of Kaavan from Pakistan.

“Why did the Pakistan government not provide adequate facilities for Kaavan’s peaceful stay in the country”, asked he.

Air travel

The zoo administration and the Four Paws International (FPI), the international group of animal rights, kept the zoo gates closed in the morning unless the 5.1-ton heavy elephant was darted and shifted from one big crate to a smaller one constructed for his air travel.

Kaavan was taken in that transport box to the airport where a Russian aircraft Ilyushin Il-76 was waiting to airlift him along with the FPI team.

It was not easy to shift the pachyderm from one crate to the other though the two huge boxes were standing back to back, however a couple of tranquiliser darts, a pair or ropes, heavy chains and Frank Sinatra’s song ‘My Way’ worked for the team that was assigned the task.

Like always, head of FPI Dr Amir Khalil was in the frontline singing Sintara and coaxing the animal into the transport crate that was later put on an open truck.

The process of the crate transfer from Kaavan’s enclosure to the huge transport vehicle completed in three steps and after the box was finally put on the truck, all those standing anxiously heaved a sigh of relief.

Bid farewell

One could see tears of gratitude in the eyes of the FPI team and all those friends of Kaavan who had come to bid farewell to the animal that cheered up their lives all these years.

It was in May this year that a court had directed relocation of Kaavan from the Islamabad zoo. Even before that the US pop star Cher had raised voice for Kaavan and even sent a member of her team in 2016 to review the possibility of Kaavan’s shifting from Pakistan to some other country.

A US doctor of Pakistan origin Dr Samar had also launched an online petition “Free Kaavan” that built up pressure on the Pakistan government to unchain Kaavan and relent to its transfer to 25,000-acre Cambodian sanctuary.

Cher even travelled to Pakistan and a day earlier on Saturday visited the zoo to see that Kaavan was finally rescued. She had also thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan and the government of Pakistan for approving the plan of Kaavan’s relocation.

Prime Minister’s aide on climate change Malik Amin Aslam, a senator of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Faisal Javed Khan, officials of the IWMB, the district and police administration were among the ‘last day’ visitors to pay farewell call on Kaavan and wish him bon voyage.