After Helping the World's Loneliest Elephant, Cher Hopes to Free Gorilla Living Above Thai Mall
When it comes to animal welfare, Cher doesn't rest.
At the end of November, the 74-year-old singer helped the "world's loneliest elephant," – a pachyderm named Kaavan, who had been living alone in a Pakistani zoo for years – find a new home where he has space to roam and elephants to befriend.
In the rescue operation led by FOUR PAWS, a global animal welfare organization for animals under direct human influence, in cooperation with the Pakistani authorities, American businessman Eric S. Margolis and the nonprofit Free The Wild, co-funded by Cher, Kaavan was moved to the Cambodia Wildlife Sanctuary in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Cher was there to meet the elephant on the ground.
Bua Noi is a female gorilla that was brought to Thailand in 1988, and has spent most of her time since stuck in an enclosure at the Pata Zoo, a facility located at the top of a mall in Bangkok.
Cher recently wrote a letter to Thailand’s environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, in which she expressed her concerns over the conditions Bua Noi endures at the zoo, which reportedly include a small cage, little mental stimulation, and inadequate access to the outdoors.
In the letter, according to The Guardian, Cher also offered to arrange and pay for the safe transport of Bua Noi from the zoo to a sanctuary in the Congo through Free the Wild, the charity Cher co-founded to help neglected, captive animals find new homes in sanctuaries and respected zoos. Cher also asked to transport the zoo's orangutans, gibbon, and bonobo to the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand.
According to Sky News, Silpa-archa replied to the letter, saying that plans are already in motion to move some of the zoo's animals.
"Please be informed that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has never forgotten or ignored Bua Noi. I, myself as minister in charge of wildlife conservation, have given instruction to the relevant agencies in order to find the best solution for a better life of Bua Noi," he wrote, per the outlet.
In a statement to Sky News, the director of Pata Zoo, Kanit Sermsirimongkol, rejected claims that Bua Noi and the other animals under his care are mistreated.
"There is an accusation that the animals are starved and gaunt which is not true," he said in the statement obtained by the outlet. "Also, the call for releasing the gorilla into the wild is the idea of animal lovers who lack knowledge and understanding about animals. Animals that are raised in the zoo cannot be released to survive in the wild as animals born in zoos are accustomed to, and have grown up in zoos."
In the same statement, Sermsirimongkol also invited Cher to Pata Zoo to "see how well we look after the gorilla with love and care."