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A Thai elephant that was gifted to Sri Lanka two decades ago arrived back in its country of birth on July 2nd.

The Thai authorities had gifted the elephant, named Muthu Raja (known as Sak Surin in Thailand), to Sri Lanka in 2001. However, they demanded its return last year due to allegations of neglect while it was kept at a Buddhist temple.

In November 2022, Thailand's Foreign Affairs Ministry released a statement stating that a preliminary investigation conducted by the Thai Embassy in Sri Lanka had concluded that the elephant "was in poor health and living in inadequate conditions." The statement mentioned that Thailand would seek Sri Lanka's approval to bring the elephant back for treatment.

The 4,000-kilogram mammal arrived in Thailand, transported inside a specially constructed giant steel crate on board an Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane of  AVIACON ZITOTRANS.

To transport the elephant, a special container was created according to the specifications provided by the Aviacon team. Two weeks before the scheduled departure, Sak Surin began training to reduce stress during the upcoming flight.

The plane also carried approximately 250 kg of fruit, including bananas, sugar cane, and grass, which Sak Surin consumed during the flight to alleviate stress. A team of six people, including two veterinarians and four professional elephant trainers called mahouts, accompanied the elephant on the flight.

"He arrived in Chiang Mai perfectly," said Thai Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa at the city's airport. "He traveled for five hours without any issues, and his condition is normal."

Now, the elderly giant will undergo a 30-day quarantine and various medical procedures at the Elephant Protection Center in Lampang. Initially, Surin will be alone, improving his health and combating boredom, but eventually, he will have the opportunity to interact with other elephants.

The Aviacon crew displayed prompt and well-coordinated actions during the transportation, with the well-being of the animal being their top priority. Aviacon Zitotrans has 28 years of successful experience in transporting various animals, including large ones such as elephants, rhinoceroses, dolphins, and horses. In 2020, the airline successfully transported the "world's loneliest elephant," Kaavan, from Pakistan to Cambodia.

Photo: DNP Thailand

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