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‘Sacred’ elephant airlifted home for £425,000 after ‘torture’ at Buddhist temple

2 min read

A sacred elephant given as a gift by a royal family to another country has been airlifted back home after “torture” allegations.

Muthu Raja, a now 29-year-old elephant had been presented to the government of Sri Lanka by the Thai royal family in 2001.

who have since called to have it back.

On Sunday (July 2), however, the giant animal was flown back to the Thai city of Chiang Mai in a custom cage, accompanied by five handlers from both countries, to the tune of 19 million baht (£425,000).

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Thailand demanded Sri Lanka return the elephant after an ambassador found that the animal was being allegedly tortured while it stayed at a Buddhist temple in the south of the country.

The 4000kg (628st) animal was found with abscesses across its body in November, and was sent to Colombo Zoo in Sri Lanka’s capital to undergo rehabilitation.

Animal rights groups claimed the gentle beast was made to work with a logging crew in the temple, adding that it developed a stiff leg from a long-neglected injury.

They also claimed that its Sri Lankan handler inflicted some of its injuries,the BBC reports.

This is despite the fact that both Thailand and Sri Lanka consider elephants to be sacred animals.

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Sri Lanka’s prime minister Dinesh Gunawardena was forced to apologise in the country’s parliament for the alleged abuse and the disrespect against Thailand, telling politicians that he wanted to "re-establish trust between the two countries".

Muthu Raja was one of three elephants sent to Sri Lanka by Thailand in 2001, in a since-halted diplomatic practice that saw the country give the giant animals to its international friends.

Bangkok's wildlife department said it is monitoring the condition of Thai elephants already sent overseas

Muthu Raja will now undergo hydrotherapy to treat its injuries while in Thailand.

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