Ailing elephant repatriated from Sri Lanka to Thailand

Bangkok, July 2 (EFE).- Sri Lanka’s authorities repatriated an elephant to Thailand following allegations that the animal was in poor health due to inadequate care at the temple where he was used in ceremonies.

Sak Surin, a 29-year-old male elephant gifted to Sri Lanka by Thailand in 2001, flew out from Colombo on Saturday and landed the following day in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai, where he will receive medical care, the Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said.

The Department on Sunday broadcast live the arrival of the elephant – also known as Muthu Raja – inside a cage aboard a Russian-made Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft.

When Sak Surin was gifted more than 20 years ago, Sri Lankan authorities transferred him to the Kande Vihara temple, about 79 kilometers (49 miles) south of Colombo, where he was used in Buddhist ceremonies.

In May last year, Thai authorities received complaints from the nonprofit, Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE), about the elephant’s poor health and initiated procedures to repatriate him.

According to animal protection groups, some 3,000 wild elephants live in Thailand’s forests, threatened by habitat loss and human activity.

This is a tiny fraction of the 300,000 elephants that populated the country more than a century ago.

The elephant population of Sri Lanka, where many of them are used in parks and shows for tourists, has also dwindled.

In the past, thousands of elephants were used in the timber industry, but when logging was banned in 1989, they began to be used for begging and recreational activities. EFE


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