Kaavan’s great escape photo special (video & gallery)

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Kaavan the elephant has completed his historic journey from the lonely and barren fields of Marghazar (Islamabad) Zoo to the lush fertile surrounds of Siem Reap, Cambodia where an entirely new life awaits him.

Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne (L), Cher, and Mark Cowne in Siem Reap, Cambodia earlier today
Gina Nelthorpe-Cowne (L), Cher, and Mark Cowne in Siem Reap, Cambodia earlier today Free The Wild

The Russian Ilyushin Il-76TD carrying the 35-year-old bull elephant touched down in Cambodia mid-afternoon today (Nov 30) after a flight from Islamabad via New Delhi, transiting through Myanmar and Thai airspace in the process.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap Kaavan, and his world renowned sponsor, American singer, actress, and television personality Cher, were met by a large media contingent as well as local government and Cambodia Customs Officials.

A Buddhist blessing ceremony for the Sri Lankan-born elephant was held on arrival, while officials from Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary, Kaavan’s new home, dealt with the importation paperwork.

Kaavan’s plight first gained global attention in 2016, when Cher, prompted by her Pakistan twitter followers, launched a social media campaign to find a better living situation for him.

While Cher’s celebrity status has without doubt drawn international focus to the plight of Kaavan, the work of the very active Friends of Islamabad Zoo has been instrumental in raising awareness of animal rights inside Pakistan. The poor standard of treatment Kaavan has received over the years acknowledged yesterday by one of the country’s highest ranked political figures.

Lush, tropical jungle and playmates await Kaavan

In Cambodia Kaavan will have some 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of protected lush, tropical jungle to explore and, more importantly, three other elephants to interact with: DiPoh, Arun Reah and Sarai Mia.

Kaavan explores his new home at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary on the evening of November 30
Kaavan explores his new home at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary on the evening of November 30 Neth Pheaktra

In the last fortnight work has accelerated at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary to get his new home ready, as well as sourcing a range of food.

When Kaavan moves to his jungle enclosure most of his food will be provided naturally from the many varieties of grasses growing there, though he will also receive supplemental food such as banana tree, corn stalks, watermelon, bananas, pineapples, etc.

The photos below document an event that everyone said was impossible to achieve, but which a handful of believers refused to accept.

A documentary crew from Nutshell TV Ltd. and Two Wise Monkeys Entertainment have been recording Kaavan’s epic journey for Smithsonian Channel and a documentary with the working title Cher’s Elephant Airlift is slated as a special presentation in 2021.



Feature video ProdzektGlobal

Feature photo Free The Wild



Kaavan’s great escape slide gallery





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John Le Fevre is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer and editor.

He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.

He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.

In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.

Most recently he was the Thailand editor/ managing editor of AEC News Today . Prior to that he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.

In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.

Opinions and views expressed on this site are those of the author’s only. Read more at About me

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