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Sri Lankan mahout honoured by Thai royals for taking care of ailing Sak Surin

8 July 2023 08:21 am – 0      – 395

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Their Majesties the King and Queen presented a gift to a Sri Lankan mahout who took care of the ailing Thai elephant Sak Surin, now in 30-day quarantine in Lampang province, after being flown from Sri Lankan on July 2.

Air Marshal Pakdee Saengchuto, deputy private secretary to the King, represented the monarch on Thursday to provide the gift to Don Upul Jayarathna Denelpitiyage, the mahout from Dehiwala Zoo in Sri Lanka,according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s Facebook page on Friday.

The ceremony was held at the ministry, with permanent secretary Jatuporn Buruspat and Mr Denelpitiyage attending.

Mr Denelpitiyage accompanied an official Thai team to fly from Sri Lanka to Thailand to help care for Sak Surin, who is now being looked after at the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre. Mr Denelpitiyage returned to Sri Lanka on Friday.

The ministry spent about 19 million baht caring for 30-year-old Sak Surin and bringing him back to Thailand for medical treatment. He is one of three elephants Thailand sent to Sri Lanka to strengthen diplomatic relations following a Sri Lankan request for the Thai government to send elephants to carry the Lord Buddha’s relics in special religious ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the Thai ambassador to Sri Lanka on Friday said Pratu Pha, another 49-year-old male elephant, has been living under normal conditions in the island nation, adding that there are no plans to bring him back to Thailand.

Ambassador Poj Harnpol said he visited Pratu Pha at Wat Sri Dala Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth Relic) in Kandy City where the elephant is kept, on Thursday. The visit was made at the invitation of Pradeep Nilanga Dela Nilame, the temple caretaker.

Mr Poj said Pratu Pha lives in an open courtyard — with a concrete and soil surface — marked by ropes to indicate boundaries. The elephant’s front legs are chained to two big trees, while one of the hind legs is lightly chained, allowing it to move and stand naturally.

Pratu Pha can consume food such as leaves from kithul trees, grass and sugar cane as normal, said the ambassador. During his 30 minutes of observation, the elephant did not display any signs of aggression,and a mahout could feed the animal from a distance.
Mr Poj emphasised the importance of improving the landscape and ensuring adequate water sources and water tanks for the elephant’s well-being. “Although the general condition is satisfactory to some extent,Pratu Pha’s living conditions could still be improved,” the envoy said.

“We acknowledge the efforts being made by the temple, and the situation cannot be changed in a day. We will work towards better care,” he said. In an interview with Sri Lankan media, Mr Poj said Thailand has no plans to return Pratu Pha, who is also known as Thai Raja.

Pratu Pha was gifted to Sri Lanka 37 years ago, while Sak Surin and another male jumbo, Sri Narong, were sent there 22 years ago as goodwill gifts.(Bangkok Post)

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