In a heartwarming turn of events, an Asian elephant that had spent over two decades at a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka is being airlifted back to its homeland of Thailand.
The Thai royal family gave the elephant, named Muthu Raja, as a gift to Sri Lanka in 2001 before being entrusted to the temple.
However, allegations of mistreatment and neglect surfaced, prompting activists from the Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE) to advocate for the elephant’s return to Thailand for proper care and medical treatment.
Panchali Panapitiya, the founder of RARE, expressed her relief, stating, “This is not the end, but the beginning of a new life for Muthu Raja.”
Last November, the temple agreed to transfer the elephant to Sri Lanka’s National Zoological Garden, where it has been undergoing treatment and preparations for the upcoming airlift to Thailand, scheduled for this Sunday.
Madusha Perera, a veterinary surgeon at the zoo, shared that the elephant’s condition has significantly improved since arriving, with the healing of two large abscesses.
However, the zoo has been unable to fully address the elephant’s leg injury due to limited facilities.
Perera explained, “Once he returns to Thailand, the experts there will attend to the condition so that one day we can see him walk the normal way.”
The treatment in Thailand may involve hydrotherapy, laser treatment, and acupuncture, according to visiting Thai veterinarian Arsaithamkul.
In preparation for the journey, Muthu Raja follows a daily routine at the zoo, including check-ups, bathing in a pond, and practicing entering the specially designed container that will carry him during the nearly six-hour flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The container, equipped with windows for feeding, has been tested for strength and comfort. During the journey, Muthu Raja will be carefully monitored by two veterinarians and if necessary, sedated.
Additionally, three Thai and one Sri Lankan elephant tenders will accompany him on the plane. Panchali Panapitiya emphasized that her group had made numerous attempts to raise concerns about the elephant’s neglect with the Sri Lankan government, but it was only after seeking assistance from the Thai government that progress was made.
She also called for releasing another elephant still residing at the Kande Viharaya temple. The impending airlift of Muthu Raja signifies a remarkable rescue mission and highlights the importance of animal welfare advocacy.
It also serves as a reminder of the need for governments and organizations to address instances of animal mistreatment promptly and compassionately.
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