Emaciated, sick elephant in Sri Lanka to return to Thailand on July 1

MONDAY, JUNE 05, 2023

One of three Thai elephants in Sri Lanka, Plai Sak Surin, is scheduled to return to Thailand for treatment on July 1, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Monday.

He said the elephant will return to its home country on an Ilyushin IL-76 transport plane. A special cage is being provided to ensure the elephant’s safety throughout the journey.

Prior to departure, the elephant will be familiarised with the cage and prepared as much as possible for the transport, he said, adding that it will be housed at Lampang Elephant Hospital for treatment.

Anucha Burapachaisri

He said caretaker Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is monitoring the operation closely. He also thanked related agencies for their efforts to take the elephant back home.

"The premier has asked related agencies to follow the operation to ensure Plai Sak Surin's safety during his return to Thailand," he added.

Emaciated, sick elephant in Sri Lanka to return to Thailand on July 1

Plai Sak Surin, known as Muthu Raja among Sri Lankans, is one of three elephants the Thai government donated to the Sri Lankan government in 2001 as a gesture of goodwill.

The elephants have been used for an annual religious ceremony to honour sacred relics for more than 21 years.

However, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment received complaints from an animal rights group in Sri Lanka that the 30-year-old elephant was overworked and not receiving proper care.

Plai Sak Surin had been neglected and exhibited signs of malnourishment, the Rally for Animal Rights and Environment warned. He was so emaciated his spine was visible, the group said. His skin was rough, his left front leg had developed abnormalities and he had been unable to bend his knees for about eight years, the group said.

He also had abscesses on both hips and thinning footpads due to prolonged standing.