Asian Elephants and Land Mines: A Rescue Mission
Beautiful, regal, and endangered, the Indian Elephant needs our help. A subspecies of Asian Elephant, the Indian Elephant is native to the inland countries of Asia, such as India, Vietnam and Thailand. Unlike their African relatives, Asian elephants are much smaller and their species has a greater threat of going extinct. Asian natives and Indian Elephants lived together peacefully for a long time. People developed relationships with them and used them for jobs such as logging. Once industrialization began to take way in Asia, many of the elephant’s habitats were destroyed. Railroads were built in the middle of migratory paths, causing many elephants to be accidentally killed by trains.
Established in the 1990’s, Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park in Chang Mai sets out to help this endangered species. In an attempt to restore some of the Indian Elephant’s natural habitat, they are trying to rebuild the surrounding rainforest by planting trees and local plants. In addition, the Park has created a sanctuary for Elephants that need help or medical care. One such Elephant is Pang Pornsawan.
Since logging was banned in Thailand in 1989, many people bring their elephants over to Burma for logging jobs in order to make a living. On August 23, 2011 Pang’s owner did just that. After work the elephants roam around the jungle to eat.
When Pang’s owner heard a loud boom, he rushed in the forest to find that Pang had accidentally stepped on a land mine. Pang had collapsed from the shock and was bleeding profusely from her foot. About 24 inches of it had been blown apart by the land mine.
After calming her down, it was obvious Pang was losing too much blood. Pang’s owner walked her for three days to the nearest village in desperate need of help. He called the Elephant Nature Park, where Lek Chailert, the Park’s founder, received the call. She rushed a medical team out to Pang’s rescue and brought her back to the park.
Unfortunately, Pang’s story is not uncommon. Since 1989 Lek has known about 20 elephants who stepped on land mines and died. Due to political unrest in Myanmar/Burma, there are many active land mines. They are not part of the Mine Ban Treaty, which in 1999 required participating countries to identify where land mines where within 4 years, and deactivate them within 10 years. People as well as livestock, and elephants often become victims to these land mines. Elephants accidentally step on them while logging in the forest or searching for food. Sometimes the elephants are left in the forest wounded, dying slowly.
Luckily for Pang, Lek and her team were able to rush her to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center’s Elephant Hospital and get her the medical care she desperately needed. The hospital treats elephants all over Thailand for free. Between 2005 and 2008, the hospital treated 283 elephants. The hospital also has The Mobile Elephant Clinic, which travels throughout Thailand offering care to injured and sick elephants. There is also the Pang La Sanctuary which offers a home to injured or old elephants that can no longer have a normal life. In addition to medical treatment, the hospital offers education to Mahouts on how to properly care for their elephants.
Pang is still at the Elephant Conservation Center receiving antibiotics and getting daily treatments to help heal her wounded leg. Without Lek and the conservation centers help, Pang surely would have been another land mine casualty. For more information about the Elephant Conservation Center or to make a donation, visit www.elephantnaturepark.org
You can always a visit to Pang yourself and cheer her up! If you’re thinking about a visit to Thailand, check out Thailand: Buddha’s Animal Kingdom for more information on their culture and beautiful country.