Pakistan's lonely elephant serenaded one last time at farewell party

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Officials and well-wishers gathered at Islamabad Zoo on Monday for a farewell party for Pakistan’s lonely elephant Kaavan before he sets off for a new life in Cambodia this week.

After years of campaigning by animal rights advocates and pop star Cher to rescue him from grim conditions with no companion, Kaavan was finally set to be airlifted to an elephant sanctuary on Sunday.

To mark the occasion, officials, including lawmakers and Pakistan’s climate change minister, gathered among balloons and signs saying “Farewell Kaavan, we will miss you”.

Children posed for photos and musicians performed in front of the enclosure, with Kaavan at one point serenaded while he snacked on some grass.

Kaavan is known to be a fan of music and Amir Khalil, a vet from animal rescue organisation Four Paws, bonded with the elephant, who has been aggressive to humans in the past, by singing him Frank Sinatra songs.

Four Paws spokeswoman Marion Lombard said that though it was never easy to move a wild animal weighing 4.8 tonnes, Kaavan was responding well to training and was ready to leave.

“We decided to organise an event to give the opportunity to the people of Pakistan and the government to say goodbye to Kaavan, before his new life in Cambodia. So we want to wish him a happy retirement,” she said.

Kaavan will be airlifted to Cambodia after training for weeks with international specialists armed with treats such as bananas to get him used to the small enclosure and loud noises of the 10-hour flight.

Cher was due to arrive in Islamabad later in the week to finally meet the elephant she had worked for years to rescue and see him off.

Writing by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Giles Elgood