Is Cher "Strong Enough" to save "the world's loneliest elephant"? You bet!
In the midst of a pandemic, the global superstar helped move a four-ton, maltreated elephant, Kaavan, more than 2,300 miles from Pakistan to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia, as captured in an incredible new Smithsonian Channel documentary.
Cher first heard of the plight of Kaavan through a social media campaign, as he became the face of animals suffering in captivity; for 20 years, Kaavan lived in chains in a tiny shed, was poked and prodded for tips, and suffered from depression following the death of his mate.
"I saw all the people being affected by it all over the world," Cher said in a 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."
The journey to Kaavan's freedom was not an easy one. Cher founded Free the Wild with Mark Cowne, Gine Nelthorpe Cowne, and Jennifer Ruiz to help amplify the social media campaign. After a court ordered Kaavan's release, Cher flew to Pakistan in November to help with the rescue operation, alongside the group Four Paws and its top veterinarian, Dr. Amir Khalil.
"I was frightened, but then I thought, what do you want to do more?" Cher said. "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."
"The rescue group, bringing together people from widely diverse backgrounds and cultures and led by the incomparable Cher, proved that the impossible can happen during the toughest of times," said James Blue, head of Smithsonian Channel. "Smithsonian Channel is honored to present this extraordinary story, which we hope will inspire our viewers and spark increased interest in other urgently needed conservation efforts around the world."
Cher & The Loneliest Elephant can be streamed on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, on Paramount+; it will also air Wednesday, May 19 at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific on the Smithsonian Channel.