Dangerously ill elephant returns to Thailand for veterinary treatment

Muthu Raja, a 30-year-old bull elephant who was born in Thailand, is dangerously ill and has been handed over to the Thai Embassy in Sri Lanka to be repatriated for veterinary treatment.

Muthu Raja is one of two elephants given by Queen Mother Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakar to former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga back in 2001. He was chosen in honour of the former Queen of Thailand and current Queen Mother, because of how beautiful he looked, even as a calf.

Muthu Raja is not so beautiful now.

He has lived at Kande Viharaya Temple in Aluthgama for the past 21 years. Chained, neglected and abused, the big bull has fallen sick several times. Recently, his feet and legs have been covered with fertiliser bags after wounds were reported on his feet.

On Wednesday, Thai officials visited the temple to inquire about the dangerously ill elephant’s health and did not like what they discovered.

His left front leg is now permanently damaged due to years of mistreatment. He has extremely thin pads and abscesses on his feet which can lead to a painful death. He has pustules and bullhook wounds all over his body. A bullhook is a tool used by mahouts, and many elephant handlers in zoos, circuses and temples.

Muthu Raja has been rented out by the temple to events all over the country or made to stand for hours “blessing” temple visitors for money as they walk under his belly. Muthu Raja’s life turned for the worse when he injured his left leg and never received the veterinary care he needed.

His injuries are now so severe that Sri Lanka doesn’t have the veterinary capacity to deal with them. This means that if he had been allowed to stay in Sri Lanka, he was certain to die a painful death.

The temple continues to rent the seriously ill elephant out for traditional parades despite his struggling to walk.

Muthu Raja will be kept at Dehiwala Zoological Garden for a few days of treatment before being back flown to Thailand.

Environment News

Jon Whitman

Jon Whitman is a seasoned journalist and author who has been living and working in Asia for more than two decades. Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Jon has been at the forefront of some of the most important stories coming out of China in the past decade. After a long and successful career in East sia, Jon is now semi-retired and living in the Outer Hebrides. He continues to write and is an avid traveller and photographer, documenting his experiences across the world.

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