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June the elephant, a rescue too late?

Neglected and left to die

Meet June, and don’t be shocked… We found this elephant chained up under a small tree, left to die.

WFFT received a phone call from Surin province that urgent help was needed for a older female elephant. We were told she was in a not too bad condition but nevertheless needed some medical attention. As the trip was going to be a 700 km journey, a small team of staff of the WFFT mobile wildlife clinic with support of some volunteers took off on Wednesday the 23rd of June.

WFFT were slightly confused why this elephant – who is only a few kilometers from the elephant village at Ban Klang, Surin province – needed our help? Surin claims to be the elephant province of Thailand and several wildlife and elephant organizations are based there; could they not provide help?

Arriving at Surin to see the elephant was particularly shocking for the volunteers. The elephant was shaking, thin, skinny and had several badly infected wounds. Seeing this stunningly tall elephant in such a terrible condition made all the volunteers speechless.

WFFT staff who themselves have previously seen some horrific examples of animal neglect, were barely able to hide their anger and disapointment that some people are willing to let an animal’s condition degrade to such an extreme.

The WFFT staff wanted to get to work on the elephant straight away. Although we had medical staff on site we realized that we needed to stay another night as it was a much bigger task than expected. Treatment of her wounds was supposed to only take a few hours but due to the severity of her condition, more preparation was needed, such as purchasing more medical supplies and making a plan of action.

On Thursday morning, the rescue team went to the market to search for more medical supplies and nutritious food for the elephant. For the past year, her diet has consisted solely of banana trees, and she has had problems with her digestive tract due to this unbalanced diet. After collecting food and further medical supplies, we quickly went to see the elephant in order to feed her and begin treatment.

Every now and then it amazes us how animals who have been so terribly abused by people, can be so gentle while having their wounds treated. She was extremely patient and calm while having her injuries cleaned and being injected, partly due to the fact that the volunteers continuously hand fed her to keep her occupied.

Treatment of the wounds took several hours. Some of the skin wounds were fairly superficial while others eaten deeping into the tissue, but ultimately all of the wounds were infected. Several of these injuries are chronic and will take long term care and treatment.

WFFT will continue to provide care to June, as we call her, for now. However, it will be beneficial for her welfare if June could be moved to the Wildlife Rescue Center permanently to receive long term medical attention.

Captive elephants are considered livestock under Thai law and no animal wellfare laws are in place. This makes confiscation of June the elephant impossible – the elephant can only be taken away with approval of the owner. At this moment we are looking at total bill of 5,000 US dollars for ownership, transportation, and medical care for the next 6 months.

We would like to move June urgently to our Wildlife Rescue Center to provide much needed medical and nutritional care and give her a well deserved retirement in her old age after years of exploitation and neglect. Her case will not be the last one, but with your help, we can give June a second chance and make the last years of her life definitely her best. Please help us to help June!

UPDATE JUNE 25 , 2010
June has been rescued! She has been taken up to the WFFT elephant refuge, all went well on the way and she is now receiving care at our center.

UPDATE July 2011
See this beautiful video on June’s progress made by a very dedicated volunteer…

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