Sri Lanka discouraged Thailand from taking back sick elephant

Sri Lanka discouraged Thailand from taking back sick elephant

By Easwaran Rutnam

Sri Lanka discouraged Thailand from taking back a sick elephant, but Thailand insisted that the animal be taken back for treatment.

Sak Surin, an ailing male Thai elephant, is to be flown home from Sri Lanka for treatment and rehabilitation next month.

Minister of Wildlife Pavithra Wanniarachchi told Parliament today that she had made several requests to the Thai Ambassador in Sri Lanka to reconsider a decision to transport the elephant back to Thailand.

However, she said that Thailand was firm on the decision to take the elephant back to the country.

The Minister also noted that the elephant belonged to a Temple and not the Sri Lanka Government as it was gifted to the Temple by the former regime.

The matter was raised in Parliament today by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa and MP Dullas Alahapperuma.

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told Parliament that he had apologized to Thailand on the elephant issue during his recent visit.

Originally gifted with two other Thai elephants to Sri Lanka in 2001 as a goodwill ambassador, Sak Surin, also known in Sri Lanka as Muthu Raja, had been mistreated for years, according to a complaint made by Rally for Animal Rights & Environment (Rare).

The elephant had been overworked and was not properly cared for, and subsequently became very thin and sick, said the Sri Lanka-based animal rights group. The elephant has also sustained some serious injuries, which made it unable to bend its left forelimb for eight years, Rare said.

Attapol Charoenchansa, the Acting Director-General of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) had told the Thai media recently that an Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft will be sent to Sri Lanka to bring the elephant back.

Once in Thailand, the elephant will be cared for at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. (Colombo Gazette)

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