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The "world's loneliest elephant" now has a friend in Cher.
The 74-year-old singer's journey to help bring a mistreated Asian elephant from a shuttered zoo in Pakistan more than 2,300 miles to a new home in Cambodia during the pandemic is detailed in an upcoming Smithsonian Channel documentary called "Cher & The Loneliest Elephant" that will air on Paramount+.
TODAY showed an exclusive first look at the film on Thursday ahead of the documentary's premiere on April 22, which is Earth Day.
An elephant named Kaavan languished in a zoo in the capital of Islamabad for 35 years and was finally freed in September 2020 to be transported to better conditions. Four months earlier, Pakistan's High Court had forced the Marghazar Zoo where Kaavan had been living to close due its awful conditions.
"He was shackled," Cher says in the trailer for the documentary. "He was suffering."
Kaavan reportedly suffered physical and emotional turmoil since the death of his partner in 2012 and had been diagnosed by veterinarians as overweight and malnourished. He was dubbed the "world's loneliest elephant" by activists after losing the female elephant nine years ago.
Cher led a push to have Kaavan freed from the decrepit zoo after being contacted by online activists about his plight. She also recorded the song "Walls" to bring attention to the issue.
The international rescue organization Four Paws spearheaded the mission to have the elephant brought to a safer new home in Cambodia.
"I saw all the people being affected by it all over the world,” Cher said in a news release. "People want a happy ending. People don't want to see animals suffer. And I know people are suffering too, but this is a story that can brighten their lives."
Cher traveled to Pakistan in November to visit with Kaavan and help with the logistical challenge of moving a four-ton elephant all the way to Cambodia.
"I was frightened, but then I thought, what do you want to do more?" Cher said in the release. "You made a promise, and you have to go. I didn't see any other way to do it. I have a saying on my Twitter, ’Stand and be counted or sit and be nothing.’ And I wasn't going to sit and be nothing."
She formed the organization Free the Wild to campaign for Kaavan's release, and it took months of planning by Four Paws to work out how to get the elephant to his new home.
A crate was specially designed to transport the elephant, and an elephant trainer worked long hours to develop a bond with Kaavan so that he would be comfortable going into the crate for his transfer, according to Four Paws.
Cher then traveled to Cambodia to be there when Kaavan arrived at his new home.
"I never thought this was something that people would love all over the world," she says in the documentary trailer. "We just didn't stop fighting."