6 June 2024

The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai province does not have the space or appropriate facilities to take care of “Sak Surin”, an ailing elephant who will return from Sri Lanka in July, said the park’s director on Wednesday.

Saengduean Chailert said that, with more than a hundred elephants under their care, the park cannot provide the required level of care for Sak Surin, because of the animal’s poor health.

Saengduean, also founder of the Save Elephant Foundation, said she has never offered to take care of Sak Surin as has been reported in some media. A few reports even claimed that many private elephant parks had raced to offer Sak Surin sanctuary, she added.

“As an elephant caretaker, the only place that seems able to take care of the ailing pachyderm is the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang province,” she said.

The centre has enough space and the appropriate facilities, such as an elephant hospital and medical equipment, to treat Sak Surin said Saengduean.

Sak Surin which was donated to Sri Lanka two decades ago, is scheduled to leave that country in early July to return to Thailand to receive medical treatment. The animal will travel on a chartered Russian Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft equipped with a specially-constructed cage.

Sak Surin’s plight came to public attention in the middle of last year, when a group of international conservationists, called Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE), urged Thailand to take the ailing elephant back.

A team of Thai vets and mahouts were sent to Sri Lanka to treat the elephant, which was reported to be chained and frequently used in ceremonies. After months of treatment, the elephant has regained strength and is fit to fly home.

One of the Thai mahouts said that, when he first saw the elephant, he was saddened by its poor condition, with infected wounds on the front legs and a hind leg chained. Sak Surin weighs about 3.5 tonnes and is 35-years-old.