Remarkable elephant rescue operation ends in tears

Elephant rescue necessary to lift elephant out of the river

Remarkable elephant rescue operation ends in tears

This article is about the story of an elephant rescue operation with a tragic ending. On the morning of Tuesday, villagers noticed an elephant almost submerged in a fast-flowing river in the Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, Phitsanulok province. The animal was just able to lift its trunk in order not to drown. It seemed unable to get up. Within a short time, a remarkable rescue operation got underway. Videos and pictures were shared on social media.

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center

Vets from the mobile clinic of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang came to Phitsanulok. With the help of construction cranes and other rescue vehicles, the sick animal was dragged out of the muddy river. It was unable to stand on its feet. A construction crane lifted it. By now this rescue operation was making headline news. Hundreds of people came to help to save this unfortunate wild male elephant. Villagers were burning incense and praying for its survival.

Elephant rescue Lifting injured elephant into a truck for transfer to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center
A crane lifts Chomphu into a Makro truck. Picture The Nation

Transportation to Lampang

After dark, footage showed the efforts to load the elephant on a vehicle from Makro. It became clear that the hind legs of the elephant were paralysed. In the early morning of Friday, October 20, the truck with its unlucky passenger arrived at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. There was at least one camera team when I arrived there that same morning. The elephant, now called “Phlai Chompu” was taken deep into the forest to a suitable place for treatment. Prospects were not good. Dr Taweepoke told the press that the survival chance of this elephant was only 50% because of its age. I decided not to add to the confusion and to continue to Lampang for my research visit. I would pass the Center on my way back to Chiang Mai the next day.

A sad ending

When I woke up on Sunday, I saw on the news that Chomphu had passed away. It had a spinal injury that paralysed part of the body and its hind legs. He couldn’t take it anymore. The whole rescue operation, combined with its injuries were just too stressful. I was despondent to read this. I think it was already clear that total recovery would have been impossible. Nevertheless, I was very, very impressed with the effort of all involved to save this poor soul. It was an audacious and touching rescue operation. Thanks to all the people involved in this. Thanks to the vets and staff of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center. This is a remarkable elephant rescue story.