Thailand's Elephant Hospital Shelter: Asia gains an infirmary for its diminishing number of elephants.

Sun Journal

October 19, 1997

The patients arrive suffering from hepatitis, malaria or worms. Or they limp on legs injured when a cliff gave way under their weight and sent them tumbling to the ground. Or they are near death because of overwork at the hands of logging crews, who drugged them with amphetamines to make them work harder.

So the doctors are busy at the hospital outside the city of Lampgan in northern Thailand. It is the only institution of its kind: a medical facility devoted exclusively to elephants.

The hospital is urgently needed.

Thailand's elephant population has fallen to no more than 5,000, XTC from 30,000 in the 1960s and 300,000 at the turn of the century. More than half of the surviving animals are illegally brought to Bangkok and other cities as tourist attractions, or employed as beasts of burden by logging crews clearing the forests that the elephants depend on for food.

As land is cleared and fenced, elephants remaining in the wild are forced to search farther to find their daily diet of 500 to 700 pounds of vegetation. They begin intruding into villages. When the animals become wild with hunger, villagers retaliate by maiming or killing them.

Loggers offer their animals little care. Many end up as patients in the hospital, established in 1993 by the Friends of the Asian Elephants.

It is limited to administering basic first aid. It lacks an analytical laboratory and a fully equipped operating room, and is in need of jungle survival kits for veterinarians visiting remote logging sites.

But it is a start, if it is not too late for the elephants.

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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