Mammoth move: Loneliest elephant heads to Cambodia after Cher campaign   

Amir Khalil (R), a veterinarian and director of the project development for Four Paws International, helps to place a crate into an enclosure prior to transport Kavaan, Pakistan's only Asian elephant, to a sanctuary in Cambodia at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad on November 29, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 November 2020

Mammoth move: Loneliest elephant heads to Cambodia after Cher campaign   

  • Singer and Oscar-winning actress has spent recent days at the Islamabad zoo to provide moral support to Kaavan 
  • Kaavan will be sent via a Russian transport jumbo jet for the lengthy flight to Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia 

ISLAMABAD: Following years of public outcry and campaigning by American pop star Cher, the “world’s loneliest elephant” embarked Sunday on a mammoth move from Pakistan to retirement in a Cambodian sanctuary.
The famed singer and Oscar-winning actress has spent recent days at the Islamabad zoo to provide moral support to Kaavan — an overweight, 36-year-old bull elephant — whose pitiful treatment at the dilapidated facility sparked an uproar from animal rights groups and a spirited social media campaign by Cher.
“My wishes have finally come true,” Cher said in a statement thanking her charity Free The Wild.
“We have been counting down to this moment and dreaming of it for so long and to finally see Kaavan transported out of (the Islamabad) zoo will remain with us forever.”
Kaavan’s case and the woeful conditions at the zoo resulted in a judge this year ordering all the animals to be moved.
“Thanks to Cher and also to local Pakistani activists, Kaavan’s fate made headlines around the globe and this contributed to the facilitation of his transfer,” said Martin Bauer, a spokesman for Four Paws International — an animal welfare group that has spearheaded the relocation effort.
Experts spent hours coaxing a slightly sedated Kaavan into a specially constructed metal crate — at one point using ropes to help pull him in — that was to be hoisted onto a lorry and taken to Islamabad airport.
From there, Kaavan will be sent via a Russian transport jumbo jet for the lengthy flight to Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia. The plane will stop for refueling in New Delhi.
Cher spent several days in the Pakistani capital to visit Kaavan before the trip to a 10,000-hectare (25,000-acre) Cambodian wildlife sanctuary, with Prime Minister Imran Khan personally thanking the 74-year-old star.
Cher was due to fly to Cambodia on Sunday to be in the Southeast Asian nation when the elephant arrives.
Officials said Kaavan will initially be kept in a small designated section of the park where he can see other elephants.
“Sending him to a place where he can be with other elephants of his kind ... is really the right choice,” climate change minister Malik Amin Aslam told AFP.
“We will be happy to see him happy in Cambodia and we hope he finds a partner very soon.”
Dubbed by the press as the world’s loneliest elephant, Kaavan is the only Asian elephant in Pakistan — the tiny number of other pachyderms at other zoos are African.
A team of vets and experts from Four Paws have spent months working with Kaavan to get him ready for the trip to Cambodia, which has included training the elephant to enter the massive metal transport crate that will be placed in a cargo plane for the seven-hour flight.
Zoo officials have in the past denied Kaavan was kept in substandard conditions or chained, claiming instead the creature was pining for a new mate after his partner died in 2012.
But Kaavan’s behavior — including signs of distress such as continual head-bobbing — raised concerns of mental illness.
Activists also said Kaavan was not properly sheltered from Islamabad’s searing summer temperatures.
Kaavan’s mate Saheli, who also arrived from Sri Lanka, died in 2012.
Rights groups and conservationists have said that the abysmal conditions at the Islamabad zoo resulted in part from the lack of legislation in Pakistan aimed at protecting animal welfare.
“There’s a lot of improvement to be made,” said Rab Nawaz with the World Wildlife Federation in Pakistan.
“Kaavan is just one animal. There’s lots of animals in Pakistan... which are in miserable conditions.” 


Pakistan arrests 'most wanted' militant linked to Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade

Updated 14 min 24 sec ago

Pakistan arrests 'most wanted' militant linked to Iran-backed Zainabiyoun Brigade

  • Counterterrorism police chief says Abbas Jafri received military training in neighboring Iran
  • Last December, police arrested two members of the same militant outfit from Karachi’s Korangi area

KARACHI: Pakistan has arrested a ‘most wanted’ militant it says is linked to the Zainabiyoun Brigade, with investigators saying on Thursday he had received military training in neighboring Iran.
The Zainabiyoun Brigade was placed on the US Treasury’s financial blacklist in January 2019 and is believed to have sent young members of the Pakistani Shiite community to fight in Syria. 
“The arrested terrorist, Abbas Jafri, is a close aide of another most-wanted terrorist, Yawar Abbas, and, much like other members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade, got his military training in neighboring Iran,” Omar Shahid, deputy inspector general (DIG) of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), said.
According to an official handout, Jafri, who was arrested in Karachi, was trained in 2014 and, among other skills, taught to perform intelligence operations and provide medical services.
“The arrested terrorist specialized in automatic weapons and received training from a neighboring country,” the handout added.
Jafri, from whom weapons were confiscated, was also described as the right-hand man of Yawar Abbas and named in the “Red Book”, an official document on that lists  names and profiles of hardened militants.
According to the police, Jafri was involved in carrying out reconnaissance activities for militants.
The arrested man has been shifted to an undisclosed location for further investigation, police said.
Earlier in December, CTD said it had arrested two members of the Zainabiyoun Brigade from the Korangi area of Karachi in connection with a string of killings over the last six years. 
Tehran has not responded to the CTD’s claims.
On November 27, an AP report said that a group of Pakistanis was among 19 pro-Iran militia fighters killed in eastern Syria.
In March, a senior official told Arab News that up to 50 Pakistani fighters were killed by the Turkish army and Syrian forces in a major rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.