NewsThailand brings abused elephants home – DW – July 2nd, 2023

    Thailand brings abused elephants home – DW – July 2nd, 2023

    An elephant causes diplomatic upset: The allegedly abused animal from Thailand has been flown out of Sri Lanka after a dispute between the governments over its attitude. The 29-year-old Muthu Raja flew from the airport in the capital Colombo in a cargo plane towards Thailand, according to the airport management. The animal, weighing 4,000 kilos, was transported in a special steel cage the size of a shipping container.

    Elephants are considered sacred in many parts of Asia and are worshiped religiously by Buddhists. They also have political significance: states in the region give each other pachyderms as a diplomatic gesture to emphasize the good bilateral relations. However, the gifted nation is expected to treat the iconic animals well.

    Animal rights activists discovered the elephant in a temple

    When animal rights activists in Sri Lanka discovered the Thai-born Muthu Raj on a temple site three years ago, the animal was in a catastrophic condition. After a long tug of war, the government in Bangkok has now brought the elephant home – at least for the time being.

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    The elephant Mutha Raja is transported to the airport in Colombo in a special containerImage: ISHARA S.KODIKARA/AFP

    Months of preparations were necessary to fly the four-ton colossus. First, Muthu Raja was taken to the zoo in November for treatment and preparation for the complicated journey. Then the elephant had to learn to climb into a specially made, seven meter long transport box and to remain there for several hours. In the end, this worked smoothly, as can be seen on a webcam video.

    “You are not just flying for your freedom, you are flying for the freedom of all captive elephants in Sri Lanka,” animal rights activists cheered on social media after Muthu Raja’s departure from Sri Lanka.

    Bangkok provides special budget

    The government in Bangkok had provided a special budget of almost 20 million Thai baht (500,000 euros) for the repatriation. In 2001, Muthu Raja came as a present to former Ceylon – a magnificent specimen with tusks that are now almost 50 centimeters long. Eventually he ended up in a temple in the coastal town of Aluthgama, where he had to do hard labor in processions and also carry wood and tourists.

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    Animal rights activists from the Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE) organization from Sri Lanka blamed the head monk of the temple and the responsible mahout, i.e. the elephant driver, for the disastrous condition of the animal. The RARE animal rights activists write on their website that the left front leg was permanently stiffened by blows from the mahout and the animal’s body was covered with abscesses and wounds.

    Thailand repatriates abused elephants
    Muthu Raja in his transport box – the 29-year-old bull has 50 cm long tusksImage: ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images

    After the responsible authorities in Sri Lanka did not react, the animal rights activists turned to the Thai authorities. In hardly any other country are the proboscidea so revered as in Thailand – because of their strength, loyalty and intelligence, but also as a good luck charm. The gray giants are the national symbol of the Southeast Asian Kingdom. Nevertheless, domesticated elephants are also abused in Thailand for tourist tours and are often drilled hard.

    The good relations between the countries are clouded

    “The incident affects the good relations between the two countries,” said a Sri Lankan opposition politician. Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena stressed that his government had officially apologized to Thailand. The elephant will later be returned to Sri Lanka. At the moment, no one knows who would pay for the return transport. Sri Lanka has extreme money worries and in 2022 slipped into the worst economic crisis in decades.

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    Sri Lankan lawyer Jagath Gunawardana says that when a country withdraws a gift, it always has a negative impact on relations between the two states. For this reason, Sri Lanka did not want the elephant Kaavan back, which the government had once given to Pakistan as a gift – although it also had to suffer a lot in its new home. Kaavan, who became known as the “world’s loneliest elephant,” was chained in a small enclosure at Islamabad Zoo for years. Finally, in late 2020, he was flown from Pakistan to Cambodia.

    nob/AR (dpa, afp)

    Source: DW

    This post is posted by Awutar staff members. Awutar is a global multimedia website. Our Email: [email protected]


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