AbZOOlutely Not** or The Controversy of Zoos & Others Keeping Elephants in Captivity

A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 4: Ride Along With Kaavan as He is Transported From Airport to Sanctuary

Kaavan the elephant is filmed splashing himself with water as he is being transported** in his air freight container (#FreeKaavan) from the airport to his new home at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. We see other glimpses of our Kaavan: the tip of his elephant trunk, his elephant toes with elephant toenails, just a happy bull elephant on the road to freedom! 


Image: Kaavan splashing himself with water inside his transport crate! Source 5


Image: View of Kaavan’s Plane as Transport Leaves the Cambodia Airport, Our Elephant Kaavan is Almost Home! Source 5


Narrator, Darrick Thomson: “So we are on our way, Kaavan is loaded. He is quite, uh, relaxed still, he is not over stressing. He does have some stereotypical behavior, um, looking forward to getting him off the truck. We are about a two and a half hours, because of the roads, uh, to get to the sanctuary. Uh, he is fine, he ate a lot. He has had a lot of water, he has, uh, splashed himself down. Everything is good, do not anybody worry. He is going to be fine. 

A great job, call out to Free the Wild (1), to Cher, uh, for her years of dedication, commitment to this boy. That is what it takes, you know, people say ‘hey, you know, petitions and none of that works’. It does and it takes a… just that commitment that just will not say no and here he is, a testament to, uh, to that distinct attachment…


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He is a really big… legs… very… just a massive trunk. Uh, he is very handsome and I am looking forward to seeing him outside of this box (transport container). So in a couple of hours, that is where you will see him. I will hopefully have some time to uh, to uh, film that. I do not know. I will be busy, uh, un, uh, untethering him. 


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Of course anybody who knows anything about elephants… when you transport elephants they have to be secured and, uh, he is tethered well… it is not… he has got freedom to move. He is not really stressed. Two back legs are tethered with movement and the one front leg… it is all good. Uh, it looks going to be, probably unloading in, uh, in the dark, which is a bit of a drag but not something we cannot manage. 



So I will let you know when we get closer to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary (2). Thanks so much to Sok Hong for their vision and David Casselman (3) for the vision to start that, uh, wonderful sanctuary. 

It is a giant land, it is 33,000 acres and, uh, this boy is going to have some of it, um and one day at a time… He has got his first, uh, shelter which some of you may have seen. Uh, it is a quarantine area and then he will be moving to new… a larger area and then after that in the field and forest. Hopefully with ladies, if he is a good boy (laughter). I am sure he will be. 

I will try to film tonight if it is not too dark, uh, the interactions between, um, Kaavan and Sarai-mia   and I think there is going to be a budding romance. Okay, everyone, see you later… 


Image: Darrick Thomson, Source 5


(It is now dark, nighttime) …the boy is doing fine, everything is well…cannot see too well. (2nd man asks: ‘How is his foot?’) He seems okay, he is not overly stressed, he is not even rocking. He ate a lot. As I said earlier he drank water and he is fine. I

It will not be long and this convoy will be arriving in the park, about (unintelligible) turnaround, so probably about an hour and we unload. Of course it will be in the dark but no worries that is what we have lamps for.”

It has been quite a journey. The boy (Kaavan) has spent a lifetime in a concrete cell. Certainly something that’s undeserving of a species so sentient, so in need of companionship, as probably the most socially developed animal there is…I am very excited to have the boy here. 

I am looking forward to a friendship and getting to know him and seeing how he becomes an elephant again here at Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary,” stated elephant expert Darrick Thomson**. 

Though it was dark, late into the night, when Kaavan was finally unloaded from his transport truck (his elephant carrier), Cher, who was instrumental in his rescue, waited patiently for the elephant to first set foot on the grounds of his new home.(6)

Image: Cher waiting to welcome Kaavan to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary. Source 6


Image: Cher waiting to welcome Kaavan to CWS. Source 6


See also: A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back: Part 5: Kaavan is Finally Home


**Canadian Darrick Thomson, from the Save Elephant Foundation and Elephant Nature Park (4), escorts the Sri Lankan elephant (it is his voice we hear on this video as he films the final leg of Kaavan’s road to freedom).

Images & transcribed from CC Video: ‘Cambodia: Kaavan being transported from Airport to his new home in the Elephant Sanctuary’ (5) by Hassan Tariq Butt; Images IN PAKISTAN from cc video: ‘Kavaan the elephant being prepared for his departure to Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary by CapeTalk (9);  Farewell Kaavan from “‘World’s Loneliest Elephant’ Given Sendoff Party As He Leaves Pakistan for new home in Cambodia” by Ruptly (10)



  1. https://www.freethewild.org/ 
  2. https://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.com/
  3. https://www.cambodiawildlifesanctuary.com/aboutus/    
  4. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlLLBdwjwO8  
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlIPWjzZv2A  “Cambodia: Cher welcomes ‘world’s loneliest elephant” Kaavan to wildlife sanctuary” Ruptly CC Video     
  7. https://www.four-paws.org/  or https://www.four-paws.us/
  8. https://www.elephantnaturepark.org/enp/visit-volunteer/projects/cambodia-elephant-sanctuary-cambodia-weekly-volunteer-49/view
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNOS-94Fulo  
  10. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAYAT5cKWwU


Four Paws (7) & Friends of Islamabad Zoo were also instrumental in Kaavan the elephant’s rescue 

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Elephant Spoken Here twitter @ESHelephants



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Did you know?: Elephant Nature Park (founded by Sangduen “Lek” Chailert… her husband is Darrick Thomson**) and the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary are both associated with Save Elephant Foundation (8)

P.S. About the Category AbZOOlutely Not** or The Controversy of Zoos & Others Keeping Elephants in Captivity (**A disclaimer about this category …elephants in captivity). While there are some Zoos & others that demonstrate exemplary methods of elephant care, unfortunately, they do not represent the “lion’s share”. ) And this category does not include the elephant sanctuary, true/reputable elephant sanctuaries, of course.


Image: Darrick Thomson beside Kaavan’s transport container in Cambodia. See Kaavan’s trunk? He is ready to see his new home! Source 6

One thought on “A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 4: Ride Along With Kaavan as He is Transported From Airport to Sanctuary

  1. Pingback: A Zoo Elephant’s Road to Freedom, A Look Back, Part 3: What a Captive Elephant Needs – Kaavan’s Influential Friends | Elephant Spoken Here

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