Animals: Thailand: Abused elephant back home

Thailand: Abused elephant back home

A vet gives water to the elephant Sak Surin. photo

© Nareerat Chaywichain/AP/dpa

The media in Thailand spoke of an “odyssey”: After months of preparation, the elephant Sak Surin returned from Sri Lanka. Even the environment minister came to receive the battered animal.

An elephant abused in Sri Lanka has returned safely to its homeland after a long diplomatic tug-of-war Thailand arrived. He is in quarantine in a special center in the north of the country, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported, citing the authorities.

The 29-year-old Sak Surin, who is known for his particularly long tusks, was flown yesterday after months of preparation with a Russian transport plane from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo to Chiang Mai. The drama about the pachyderm had made headlines in both countries. All major media have been reporting on the case for weeks.

hard labor and abuse

Sak Surin was a gift from Thailand to the Government of Sri Lanka in 2001. In the two predominantly Buddhist countries, elephants have religious significance. In former Ceylon, however, he was abused in a temple by a mahout (elephant leader) and also had to do hard labor, animal rights activists complained.

The organization Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE), which drew attention to the case and informed the authorities in Thailand, spoke of abscesses, deep wounds and a permanently stiff leg. The government in Bangkok then organized the return transport and provided a special budget for it.

In Thailand, the four-ton colossus was received by Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa and examined by veterinarians. His condition was so good that, according to the media, he was immediately taken to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, 70 kilometers away, with a special transporter and under police protection.

Crowds of onlookers had come to the airport to catch a glimpse of the large gray steel box containing the elephant, according to videos posted on social media. Sak Surin had had to train for weeks to get into the box and remain calm in it for several hours. During the flight he was looked after by veterinarians and elephant drivers (mahouts).

The interest is so great that live recordings of Sak Surin will be broadcast regularly on Facebook in the future. After the 30-day quarantine and thorough medical treatment, the bull will eventually be reunited with other elephants, according to plans. It is currently unclear whether he will eventually be brought back to Sri Lanka, as the government in Colombo would like.


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