A Thai elephant given to Sri Lanka in 2001 has gotten back to its origin after a discretionary line over its supposed maltreatment.
The 29-year old Muthu Raja showed up in Thailand on Sunday on a 19 million baht (£425,000; $540,000) commercial flight for reparation.
Due to claims that the animal had been tortured while being kept at a Buddhist temple, Bangkok had demanded that it be returned.
Sri Lanka’s state leader said he had officially apologized to the Thai ruler.
In a specially designed steel cage, the 4,000 kg (8,800 lb) elephant was flown to Chiang Mai with four Thai handlers and a Sri Lankan zookeeper.
It will go through hydrotherapy to treat a physical issue on its front left leg.
Elephants are considered sacred in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
Three elephants, including Muthu Raja, were given to the government of Sri Lanka by the Thai royal family in 2001 to be trained as carriers of religious relics.
Muthu Raja was given to a temple in the south of the country to be cared for.
It has a stiff leg as a result of a long-ignored injury, according to animal rights groups, who claim it was forced to work with a logging crew in the temple.
According to Panchali Panapitiya, the founder of the Sri Lanka-based activist group Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE), after months of unsuccessful attempts to get Sri Lanka’s government to act, RARE lobbied Thai officials to intervene last year.
According to The Independent, Ms. Panapitiya claimed that Sri Lankan wildlife officials’ inaction had brought “disrepute” to the nation. Intriguing has additionally requested of for specialists to indict those liable for the elephant’s disregard.
Sri Lankan natural life serve Pavithra Wanniarachchi told neighborhood media Thailand had been “determined” in requesting that Muthu Raja be returned after its diplomat in Sri Lanka viewed it as in chronic weakness during a visit a year ago.
Muthu Raja was in torment and canvassed in abscesses when taken out from the sanctuary last November, AFP revealed. Activists guarantee its overseer caused a portion of those injuries.
It was briefly moved to Sri Lanka’s Public Zoological Nursery and the greater part of its injuries have recuperated as of late.
In June, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena told his parliament that he was able to “re-establish trust between the two countries” after conveying his regret about Muthu Raja’s alleged abuse to Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The Thai government quit sending elephants abroad around a long time back following fights from activists, Thai climate serve Varawut Silpa-archa said in June.
Bangkok’s natural life division said it is checking the state of Thai elephants previously sent abroad.
More about Thai elephant flown
A Thai elephant named Muthu Raja was flown back to Thailand on July 2, 2023, after spending 22 years in Sri Lanka. The elephant was gifted to Sri Lanka by the Thai royal family in 2001, but was returned after activists alleged that he had been mistreated.
Muthu Raja was kept at a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka, where he was reportedly forced to perform tricks and was often beaten. He also developed a leg injury that went untreated.
In 2022, a group of Thai animal rights activists filed a complaint with the Sri Lankan government about Muthu Raja’s treatment. The government launched an investigation, which found evidence of abuse.
As a result of the investigation, Muthu Raja was ordered to be returned to Thailand. He was flown back on a special cargo plane that cost over $700,000.
Muthu Raja is now being quarantined at an elephant hospital in Chiang Mai. He is expected to undergo hydrotherapy for his leg injury and will then be moved to a nearby nature reserve.
The return of Muthu Raja has been a positive outcome for the elephant, but it has also strained relations between Thailand and Sri Lanka. Some Sri Lankans have criticized the Thai government for taking back the elephant, arguing that it was a gift and should not have been returned.
Despite the diplomatic spat, the return of Muthu Raja is a victory for animal rights activists. It shows that even when an animal is gifted to another country, it is still protected by animal welfare laws. It also sends a message that animal abuse will not be tolerated.