Cher helps rescue elephant from Pakistan zoo during pandemic: 'I thought, how can I fix this?'

Raechal Shewfelt
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·3 min read

Cher’s latest move made no less than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ask, “Is there anything Cher can’t do?” The answer, of course, is no, no there is not.

The singer/actress/style icon/wildlife advocate has just proven it, as she helped to rescue an elephant. During the pandemic, she traveled to Pakistan to oversee the transfer of Kaavan, a 36-year-old male who’s resided in poor conditions at a local zoo, to the much more pleasant Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary.

Pakistan received the elephant as a gift from Sri Lanka when he was a baby. He was then sent to live at Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, under conditions that animal rights advocates have long deemed unacceptable. Kaavan was malnourished and didn’t have enough room. After his partner died in 2012, he was referred to as the “world’s loneliest elephant” and suffered psychological issues from the isolation.

Cher has saved a life. (Photo: Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
Cher has saved a life. (Photo: Bruce Glikas/Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)

In 2016, Cher learned about the animal’s plight and began sharing it.

“I found out about Kaavan from the people on my Twitter,” Cher said in a statement released by the Smithsonian Channel, which will air a documentary, “Cher’s Elephant Airlift,” in 2021. “They would not stop saying ‘Cher, you have to do something, you have to fix this, you have to save him.’ 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?”

Then in May, an Islamabad court ruled that Kaavan’s zoo was essentially “subjecting [animals] to unnecessary pain and suffering.” Kaavan, for instance, was overweight from a lack of exercise. Free the Wild, an animal charity that Cher co-founded, teamed with animal welfare organization Four Paws International to rescue him once and for all.

Trainers worked with Kaavan for weeks to teach him how to walk in and out of the crate he needed to be in for his big move. When he did it for real, the team ushered him onto a seven-hour flight that he seemed to adjust to well, eating and sleeping, said Amir Khalil, a veterinarian who accompanied him on behalf of Four Paws.

Of course, Cher was nearby to sing to him and calm his nerves when he needed it.

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