Kaavan the elephant in Oddar Meanchey province. MoE

By Scarlett Green / Khmer Times

One month after Kaavan the “world’s loneliest elephant” arrived in Cambodia, the giant is showing major signs of improvement in his formerly turbulent behaviour.

Kaavan was relocated to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) on November 30 after five years of campaigning to relocate him from Islamabad zoo, Pakistan, an allegedly abusive environment.

CWS spokesman Pedro Vella told Khmer Times yesterday that Kaavan has adjusted well to his new surroundings.

“Kaavan is really becoming an elephant now. He tends to visit the female elephants when they return from the jungle at the end of the day (through the fencing),” Vella said.

Kaavan, who was in an enclosure alone since 2012, has now got three female mates Arun Reah, 67, DiPloh, 47, and Sarai Mia, 27, who also look for him after they return from the jungle.

Pedro added that Kaavan’s diet has also improved. He eats lots of grass and chopped banana trees as his main source of food, supplemented by fruit and vegetables.

Kaavan was overweight when he was in Pakistan. CWS has not yet weighed Kaavan but has confirmed that he appears healthier.

“We are currently building a 15 acre jungle enclosure for Kaavan, it has a dense jungle with a good grassy area and will also include a very large swimming pool. We expect to complete this enclosure in around two months, he will then be free to roam around inside. Our three female elephants can join him inside if they indicate that they wish to do so,” added Vella.

The CWS team plan to begin some positive reinforcement training with him, so that Kaavan allows them to treat him willingly. CWS’s staff have decades of experience with elephants and they are in constant communication with Thai vet staff.

Dr Amir Khalil, who left Cambodia after two weeks of monitoring the elephant, said that “Kaavan bonding with other female elephants is a positive sign that he no longer feels lonely. He has started to accommodate to the new climate and his new home. He feels much safer and calmer since I met him. I am feeling very confident about Kaavan’s bright future and development.”

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said that Kaavan is in good health and is adapting to his new home in Oddar Meanchey province. “We hope that Kaavan will contribute to the gene pool.”

“Kaavan is no longer ‘the world’s loneliest elephant’. He lives out his life in a natural environment under the care of CWS and the Ministry of Environment. Cambodia is proud to be Kaavan’s new home,” said Pheaktra.

Currently CWS is closed for public visits, but this may be reviewed in January.