Cher Sheds Tears of Joy as Pakistan’s ‘Loneliest Elephant’ Wins Bid For Freedom

An elephant at the Murghazar Zoo in Islamabad, is set to be freed thanks to a May 21 ruling by the Pakistan High Court.

Pop icon Cher, who advocated for four years on his behalf, calling him “the world’s loneliest elephant”, is celebrating the news.

“THIS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MOMENTS OF MY LIFE,” she tweeted.

Since at least 2016, animal rights groups have worked tirelessly for the release of Kaavan, a 33-year old Asian elephant from Sri Lanka, whose only playmate died eight years ago in the zoo.

To facilitate the court’s ruling, Pakistan’s Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) is working to—at last—find him a “suitable sanctuary”.

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“The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The world was mobilized into action, sending petitions to the Pakistani government, after photos showed the elephant living in terrible conditions, sometimes chained.

Friends of Islamabad-Zoo Facebook Page

The IWMB has assembled an eight-member committee to arrange the relocation of Kaavan. Members include WWF senior director Rab Nawaz, biodiversity specialist Z.B. Mirza, an Islamabad Zoo veterinary officer, IUCN’s Nilanga Jaysinghe, and co-founder of Save the Elephant Foundation Derek Thompsan, according to a June 6 report by Gulf News.

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The court had also directed that all the other remaining animals be moved to temporary sanctuaries within 60 days—including brown bears, lions and birds—while the zoo improves its standards, reported Al Jazerra.

Kaavan first came to Pakistan at the age of 1, as a gift for the country’s leader at the time. Since his companion Saheli died in 2012, he has not been able to enjoy the company of other elephants. His release will give him the opportunity to live out his life among a social group of his peers.

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Cher sent one of her representatives to the zoo in 2016 to advocate for Kaavan. That same year, she also advocated for human rights by delivering water to Flint, Michigan, during its drinking water crisis.

The pop star is incredibly thankful that hers and others’ efforts have paid off. “It’s so emotional for us that I have to sit down,” she wrote.

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Pakistan Hires Thousands of Newly-Unemployed Laborers for Ambitious 10 Billion Tree-Planting Initiative

Although the novel coronavirus pandemic has driven thousands of workers into unemployment, the Pakistani government has found a way to provide jobs to their citizens while also reforesting the nation.

According to Reuters, Pakistan has created more than 63,000 jobs for unemployed day laborers by relaunching the nation’s ambitious 10 Billion Tree Tsunami campaign.

The 5-year initiative, which was started by Prime Minister Imran Khan back in 2018, was temporarily shut down in mid-March as a result of the country’s quarantine. With thousands of agricultural workers facing unemployment amidst the lockdowns, however, the program was relaunched earlier this month.

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The laborers, who are still required to wear face masks and respect social distancing guidelines, are now being given daily living wages as “jungle workers” planting saplings and protecting the trees from fires and illegal logging. The Pakistani government has reportedly been planting the majority of these trees in rural, low-income areas where locals can benefit from the work.

The nation’s environmental ministers go on to say they hope to hire three times as many workers as last year in order to meet their goal of planting 20 million saplings by the end of 2020, bringing the project’s total to 50 million trees.

This is not the first time that the nation has made headlines for planting trees; the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami is a continuation of another extensive tree-planting government effort which resulted in more than 300,000 new jobs and millions of saplings planted across the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province back in 2017.

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Now Malik Amin Aslam, who is the climate change adviser for the prime minister, told Reuters that legislators hope to continue using the pandemic as a tool to ramp up their efforts against climate change.

“This tragic crisis provided an opportunity and we grabbed it,” Aslam told the news outlet in a phone interview. “Nurturing nature has come to the economic rescue of thousands of people.”

This is just one of many positive stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

File photo by Junaid Ali, CC

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