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Cher welcomes mistreated elephant from Pakistan to Cambodia

Siem Reap | After years of abuse in a zoo in Pakistan, the “world’s loneliest elephant” arrived in Cambodia on Monday, where it was greeted by famous American singer Cher, who had campaigned for his transfer.

Kaavan, a 36-year-old obese pachyderm, for whom Pakistani animal rights activists, backed by Cher, had mobilized, is to be welcomed into a Cambodian reserve which has some 600 other elephants.

The 74-year-old singer, wearing a black mask, eagerly awaited him at Siem Reap airport, where the plane carrying him landed at 2:30 p.m.

Kaavan’s trip went “without incident,” said Amir Khali, a veterinarian with the Austrian animal welfare organization Four Paws who was accompanying him, adding that the elephant behaved like a “regular in the trips ”.

“Kaavan ate, was not stressed, he even slept a little bit, got up and leaned on the wall of the metal box,” he said.

The pachyderm is to be moved to a reserve that spans 10,000 hectares, located in Oddar Meanchey Province.

Dubbed “the loneliest elephant in the world,” he lived in appalling conditions in a zoo in Islamabad where he was mistreated.

“Cambodia is happy to welcome Kaavan. It will no longer be the loneliest elephant in the world, “Deputy Environment Minister Neth Pheaktra told AFP.

“We expect him to breed with other elephants, it will be an effort to preserve his genetic footprint,” he added.

Long mobilization

Kaavan was the only Asian elephant in Pakistan, the others, few in number, being African pachyderms.

His transfer to Cambodia is the result of a campaign of mobilization that has lasted for years.

The case of this pachyderm and the deplorable state of the zoo in the Pakistani capital led a magistrate to order last May that all animals be transferred there.

The zoo administration has in the past denied that the animal was mistreated, saying it was simply waiting to find a new companion, after Saheli died from gangrene in 2012.

But international experts have observed stereotypical behavior in Kaavan – he often only turns his head and trunk from side to side for hours on end – that has raised questions about his sanity.

Rights groups and environmentalists believe the appalling living conditions for animals at the Islamabad Zoo are in part a result of Pakistan’s lack of legislation to protect animal welfare.

Cher, who partially contributed financially to the trip, said on Twitter that the decision to release Kavaan was “one of the best times” of his life.

A team of veterinarians and experts from Fou Pauws spent months preparing the pachyderm for the trip, a complicated process due to the size of the animal and the amount of food needed on the journey.

The elephant also had to be taught how to enter a massive metal box specially made for him, which was placed in the cargo plane for the seven-hour flight.

The elephant was given mild sedatives.

Cher met last week with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan who wanted to thank her personally.

Four Paws, working in coordination with the authorities in Islamabad, also transferred three wolves and several monkeys from the zoo, where only two Himalayan brown bears, a deer and a monkey remain.

Technology UK

New coronavirus closely related to the SARS-CoV-2 discovered in Cambodia

A new coronavirus closely related to the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 virus has been discovered in Cambodia.

Researchers from the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia found the new virus in two horseshoe bats stored in a freezer, and believe it is one of the first known relatives of SARS-CoV-2 found outside China.

The finding could help to unravel the mystery of how SARS-CoV-2 passed from bats to humans, and could inform the search for the pandemic’s origin, according to the researchers.

Tracey Goldstein, associate director of the One Health Institute at the University of California, who is involved with the Cambodian team, said: “SARS-CoV-2 probably wasn’t a brand new virus that popped up all of a sudden.

“Viruses in this group existed before we became aware of them in 2019.”

Horseshoe Bat

The researchers captured the horseshoe bats in Cambodia back in 2010, as part of a project to survey wildlife worldwide for viruses.

Basic genome sequence of the virus showed that it was similar to the same region in SARS-CoV-2, suggesting they’re closely related.

However, it remains unclear whether this new virus could infect human cells.

Meanwhile, a team in Japan has discovered a second new virus, that also appears to be related to SARS-CoV-2.

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This virus, called Rc-o319, was discovered in frozen bat droppings.

The two teams now plan to carry out further investigations of the new viruses to help unravel the mystery of how SARS-CoV-2 took over the world in 2020.

Edward Holmes, a virologist at the University of Sydney, said: “Hopefully, one or more of these will be so closely related to SARS-CoV-2 that we can regard it as the true ancestor.”

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Big Story Coronavirus COVID-19

Cambodia’s new virus rules restrain holiday celebrations

Cambodians marked their Independence Day holiday Monday, but new coronavirus restrictions kept them from celebrating at karaoke parlours, beer gardens, museums, cinemas and other entertainment venues, which have been ordered shut until further notice.

Students in Phnom Penh, the capital, and the satellite town of Kandal will not be returning to schools on Tuesday as an Education Ministry order to contain the spread of the virus has shut them down in those places for two weeks.

The new restrictions were issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday because Hungary’s foreign minister tested positive for the coronavirus after visiting Cambodia last week.

Peter Szijjarto tested positive upon arrival in Thailand on Tuesday following his one-day Cambodia visit. He was placed in quarantine in Bangkok before leaving for Hungary on Wednesday.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced Saturday that a Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said the bodyguard was the only one of more than 900 people who were involved with Szijjarto’s visit to test positive.

Hun Sen and four Cabinet ministers are in quarantine because they met with Szijjarto the same day he tested positive. Hun Sen said he has tested negative and will abide by the country’s coronavirus guidelines and stay quarantined for 14 days.

All the people involved with the Hungarian foreign minister’s trip were undergoing a second coronavirus test Monday. They will be tested four times during the 14-day quarantine period.

Education Ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha issued a statement Monday saying Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium would close its gym and other facilities because the infected Cambodian bodyguard for Szijjarto also coached sports there.

In his Saturday audio message, Hun Sen said he would not declare a national or local state of emergency, or bar travel by people not involved, but urged people to observe Health Ministry guidelines.

Cambodia has reported a total of 297 cases of the coronavirus, with no deaths.

The Education Ministry said the school shutdown was necessary because it has been unable to collect enough information from the parents of those students who had direct or indirect contact with Szijjarto.

Schools throughout Cambodia reopened on November 2 after being closed since March due to the coronavirus, but with limited class sizes and hours.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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