After enduring years of mistreatment in Sri Lanka, Sak Surin, a vulnerable male Thai elephant, is set to return home for medical treatment and rehabilitation, as announced by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP). Next month, an Ilyushin IL-76 transport aircraft will carry Sak Surin, who is also known in Sri Lanka as Muthu Raja, back to his homeland. Once in Thailand, he will reside and be cared for at the esteemed Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.
According to Sri Lanka-based animal rights group, Rally for Animal Rights & Environment (Rare), Sak Surin has been subject to years of mistreatment. The noble creature was gifted as a goodwill ambassador to Sri Lanka back in 2001 along with two other Thai elephants. Since then, lack of proper care and overwork have left him significantly weakened and ill.
Bearing alarming injuries, Sak Surin has been unable to bend his left forelimb for eight years. The Sri Lankan government eventually transferred ownership of the elephant to the Kande Vihara Temple. While there, Sak Surin was a carrier of holy relics during annual Buddhist parades but remained in poor physical condition.
Acting Director-General Attapol Charoenchansa of the DNP shared the plan for Sak Surin’s return following the assessment of the elephant’s health and travel readiness by a team of veterinarians. In order to ensure the elephant’s proper treatment, a new DNP team, alongside two highly experienced mahouts, will travel to Sri Lanka.
The mahouts, selected for their impressive skills in handling elephants, are Thorachaisit Siri, 38, and Supphachai Bunkoet, 26. Both bring with them extensive experience in dealing with elephants, from managing aggressive behaviors to providing medical assistance. Siri has been working closely with elephants for over a decade, while Bunkoet has dedicated nine years to the field and currently serves as a veterinarian assistant at the Lampang elephant hospital.
With its joint effort and expertise, the pair of mahouts and the new DNP team will ensure Sak Surin receives the love, care, and healing he absolutely deserves. Upon his return to Thailand, the ailing elephant will finally find respite within the nurturing environment of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang, where his rehabilitation journey will begin in earnest.