Animals are close to Cher’s heart.
On Wednesday, Smithsonian Channel Canada will debut the new documentary “Cher & the Loneliest Elephant”, about how she helped save an elephant in Pakistan.
“On my Twitter all the kids kept on saying to me ‘save Kaavan’ and I thought I cannot save an elephant in Pakistan. I have no street cred. Someone sent me a picture [of Kaavan] and the picture was so horrible and he was shackled in this shed. And I was p**sed off, I was really angry,” Cher says. “I called Mark Cowne, Bob Geldof’s manager, who has been involved in rescuing elephants in South Africa, and I said, ‘well, there’s this elephant I want to save and I don’t really know anything about how to do this.’ Mark said, ‘I’ll be there right away’. As a group [Free the Wild (co-founded by Cher and Mark) and Four Paws] we managed to make this happen, we’re all like a big family.”
When Pakistan’s High Court ruled that Kaavan would be freed in 2020, the legendary entertainer travelled to the country in the middle of the COVID pandemic to greet the elephant.
“I thought, oh, COVID, that’s kinda not a good idea. Going to Islamabad to save an elephant was way above my job description. I thought all those things, and then at the end we just decided that’s not as important as saving this elephant,” she recalls. “When I arrived in Islamabad everyone was saying ‘we didn’t expect you to come, why are you here?” and I said ‘because I said I was coming and I’m here to get Kaavan’. I did what I had to do, I saw it through, without redemption.”
On actually meeting Kaavan, Cher says, “We had to walk up the long road into the zoo and I thought – what is he doing in this hell hole that’s as big as my fingernail? He was so brown and beautiful. I didn’t realize how gigantic elephants are, and Kaavan’s not even a big elephant, but he was so big.”
In the documentary, Kavaan and Cher truly bond after she feeds him watermelon and sings Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” to him.
“He [Kaavan] loves that song, animals you know they love music, they’re soothed by it. It was like I already knew him, and I didn’t realise that he would have such a cute personality,” she says. “Elephants are so social, they’re like we are. We’re very much the same. They’re so family oriented and they’re so emotional.”
Cher then travelled with Kaavan to his new home in Cambodia, but since coming back home to California, she has made sure to check in on the animal.
“Yes. He seems really happy. He’s always eating,” she says.
Cher adds, “You know it’s so strange, first of all I never thought we could do it, that this would happen and I would stand next to Kaavan on this journey. This is like a fairytale ending, you know? And I now know I can make a difference, so I’m going to continue to do it.”