'Cher & The Loneliest Elephant': new documentary explores how superstar saved neglected Kaavan from Pakistan zoo

The singer was at the forefront of a campaign to free the mistreated animal from the zoo where he lived for 35 years

Powered by automated translation

In December 2020, Cher set off on a journey across the world in a bid to save the "world's loneliest elephant."

The star travelled to Pakistan alongside Four Paws International, the Vienna-based animal welfare group, to meet Kaavan, an Asian elephant who languished in a tiny enclosure in Islamabad Zoo in Pakistan for more than 35 years.

He was chained up, overweight, and completely alone, after his only mate died in 2012 after developing sepsis from the chain and bull-hook nails digging into her skin. Seemingly forgotten about, Kaavan entered a slow psychosis, and spent all day compulsively rocking backwards and forwards.

That is, until Cher came along. The superstar made it her mission to free Kaavan after first learning of his story on social media in 2016. Alongside a team of animal welfare charity workers, the star spearheaded the campaign to have him rehomed.

After years of campaigning, a court ordered Kaavan be freed in May 2020, a victory the Oscar-winner described as “the greatest moment of my life.”

Later that year, Cher travelled to Pakistan again to be there for the moment Kaavan was transferred to a sanctuary in Cambodia. That journey is now the subject of a new documentary, Cher & The Loneliest Elephant, set to stream on Paramount+ from Thursday.

"I remember when I started to hear about it [on Twitter], because it came in sort of a flood," Cher told Smithsonian Magazine. "It was all 'Save Kaavan, Save Kaavan' and 'Free Kaavan, Free Kaavan'—it was constant.

“All of a sudden, I was just doing it,” she said. “I didn’t expect anything, but I was going to say to myself, ‘Yeah, you tried.’

“It was so hard in the beginning,” she added. “The administration didn’t even want to talk to us. They weren’t kind, they weren’t interested, they just really didn’t care.”

Cher also revealed she regularly checks up on Kaavan in his new home in Cambodia via video call. “Oh, he’s so happy there,” she said. “I knew it the moment we let him out of the crate.

“Elephants are so amazing, they’re like human beings, only better.”

Cher & The Loneliest Elephant is streaming on Paramount+ from Thursday, 2021, to coincide with Earth Day