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What’s the story with Cher and ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’?

The plight of the neglected creature was brought to the singer’s attention via social media

Joanna Whitehead
Wednesday 21 April 2021 16:48 BST
The veteran singer and actor has campaigned for the release of Kaavan the elephant
The veteran singer and actor has campaigned for the release of Kaavan the elephant (Angel Marchini/Shutterstock)

Cher has cited the power of social media in inspiring her mission to save the “world’s loneliest elephant”.

The singer and actor fronted a global campaign to free Kaavan, a four-ton, malnourished Asian elephant who spent almost 20 years of life chained up in a Pakistan zoo, after hearing about his plight on Twitter.

Forced to beg for tips, the creature was forced to live in a cramped, dilapidated shed under the heat of the Islamabad sun.

His living conditions meant he developed severe health problems, including obesity.

Kaavan’s only partner died of neglect in 2012, prompting campaigners to label him the “world’s loneliest elephant”.

A prolific Twitter user, Cher told PA: “I never actually intended to [get involved], I just got swept up in it because the kids on my site, on my Twitter feed, started sending me these pictures and it was all ‘free Kaavan, free Kaavan’.

“And I looked at the pictures and they were terrible but I thought, 'I can't do anything', so I didn't answer them and thought eventually they'll just stop. But they didn't and so I started to get involved,” she said.

The 74-year-old singer recorded the song “Walls” to raise awareness of the campaign and in May 2020 a Pakistan court ordered that Kaavan was freed.

In November, the “Strong Enough” star travelled to Pakistan to secure Kaavan’s release and his move to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia.

The extraordinary story is captured in a new documentary called Cher & The Loneliest Elephant, which premieres in the UK at 8pm on 22 April on the Smithsonian Channel (available on Sky, Virgin, Freeview and Freesat).

“It's not the first time I've actually done something like this but it's all been done with human beings,” the singer said.

This unlikely pairing may have struck some fans of the “Believe” star as unusual, but it’s not the first time the singer has campaigned for animal welfare.

In 2017, she and partners Mark Cowne, Gina Nelthorpe Cowne and Jennifer Ruiz co-founded Free The Wild, an animal rights campaign group that focuses on freeing animals kept in captivity or transferring them to more suitable homes.

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