Cher and a four-year elephant rescue mission she led is the focus of a new documentary, “Cher & the Loneliest Elephant.”
Now streaming on Paramount+ in honor of Earth Day, the film takes audiences through the singer’s journey to save and protect a 36-year-old elephant named Kaavan from captivity in Pakistan last November.
Kaavan was gifted by the Sri Lankan government to Pakistan shortly after his birth in 1985 and was placed in a zoo. He was neglected, with his legs shackled, and his physical and mental health deteriorated.
Samar Khan, a veterinarian from the US, started a Change.org petition to free Kaavan. Cher was alerted to it as it amassed nearly 500,000 signatures, and knew she had to do something.
“All of a sudden, people started texting me this picture of an elephant with his nose pressed against a wall in this tiny little space,” Cher recalled in an interview with USA Today for the project. “(The petition) didn’t go away and I found myself thinking, ‘Obviously this came to me for a reason.’ “
She released a song inspired by Kaavan called “Walls,” and co-founded an animal rights organization, Free the Wild.
As attention grew, a lawyer in Pakistan won a court case granting Kaavan’s release after the zoo refused to release him.
Four years after she started her fight, Cher wanted to meet him. She flew to Pakistan, where she sang him a song.
“Everything seemed like it was happening so quickly,” she said. “It was another area, it was a place I was kind of nervous of and there was a huge pandemic. It was surreal. While I was packing, I kept going, ‘Am I really going to be doing this? Is this really gonna happen?’ And then I just finally thought, ‘Shut up. You’ve been doing this for four years. I don’t care what happens — I’m going.’ “
She fed him watermelon and serenaded him with Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Kaavan is now living at a Cambodian wildlife sanctuary and is really happy.