An elephant dubbed the "world's loneliest" has been pictured making contact with another of his species for the first time in eight years after languishing alone in a Pakistan zoo for years.

The elephant, named Kaavan, has been relocated to a new sanctuary in Cambodia after singer Cher campaigned for him to be rescued. He has spent 35 years in Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad without proper socialisation and has been on his own since his partner died in 2012.

The 36-year-old, 9,000lb elephant received a warm welcome by chanting Buddhist monks upon his arrival, before being sent on his way to a wildlife sanctuary.

He was then pictured making contact with another elephant with his trunk, seemingly keen to check out his fellow sanctuary residents. In May, Pakistan's high court ordered the closure of the zoo where the animal spent most of his life after it fell on hard times and was in poor condition.

The campaign to have him freed caught Cher's attention and she began writing songs urging for his release. On Sunday, wildlife workers and experts, led by animal rescue organisation Four Paws, winched a sedated Kaavan into a custom-designed crate to help move him.

He was lifted out of the enclosure on to a truck, where a military convoy escorted him to Islamabad's airport. He took a 10-hour flight to Cambodia before a further five-hour truck journey to the city of Siem Reap, where the sanctuary is located.

Once his large metal crate was safely on board, he was treated to 440lbs of in-flight snacks. Vet Amir Khalil, who accompanied Kaavan on the trip, said he was not stressed during the flight and spent most of it eating and sleeping.

"He behaves like a frequent flier. The flight was uneventful, which is all you can ask for when you transfer an elephant," the vet said. Kaavan, a 1985 gift from Sri Lanka to Pakistan, has spent three months being coached by vets and experts on how to enter and exit his four-tonne travel crate safely without stress. Four Paws said very few adult elephants have ever been relocated by plane, so preparations were arduous.

Elephants are social animals that thrive on the company of other elephants, so the loss of his mate Saheli took a toll on his mental health.

"Once Kaavan feels at home in a controlled setting, he will be released in a wildlife sanctuary, in Oddar Meanchey province, in the northern section of Cambodia, where some 600 Asian elephants live in peace and tranquillity," said a statement from Neth Pheaktra, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry.



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