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Pattaya Vets Blamed for Killing Injured Elephant with Sedative Overdose

Veterinarians hired to treat an injured wild elephant blamed for killing two rubber tappers in Rayong in September ended up killing the animal by allegedly overdosing it with tranquilizers. (Photo: Pattaya Mail, with permission)
Veterinarians hired to treat an injured wild elephant blamed for killing two rubber tappers in Rayong in September ended up killing the animal by allegedly overdosing it with tranquilizers. (Photo: Pattaya Mail, with permission)

Veterinarians hired to treat an injured wild elephant blamed for killing two rubber tappers in Rayong in September ended up killing the animal by allegedly overdosing it with tranquilizers.

A backhoe was needed to scoop the carcass of the massive, short-tusked pachyderm from a drained Khao Chamao District pond Nov. 6 after the jumbo died following a tortuous three days of drug-induced haze and paralysis.

The elephant came under the care of a Pattaya veterinarian and supposed experts from Nong Nooch Tropical Garden last month after it was blasted with a shotgun. A serious leg wound became infected, leading to sepsis.

Vets believed they had conquered the infection, however, and moved to return to the elephant to its forest in Khao Ang Lua Nai, Pha Yum Subdistrict in Rayong. But they had trouble sedating the jumbo and, after two shots failed to work, they drugged the animal two more times until it passed out. The elephant was then loaded on a truck and taken to the Rayong forest.

Recent rainfall, however, had washed out what little road there was to the palm forest and the truck was unable to pass. So they put a GPS tracker on the animal and let the elephant out with the idea of directing into the trees.

The elephant didn’t move. Still drugged, it laid on the road overnight with doctors keeping watch. By morning, they administered saline to revive the pachyderm, but it took six hours for it to stand and then only just staggered around.

Nearby residents brought food and more water. Its listless behavior last three days and on Thursday it waded into a pond and stayed there.

Fearing the animal would drown, officials drained water from the pond, but it still didn’t move. Finally, the elephant died.

Authorities loaded the remains onto a 10-wheeled truck before taking it to the Ban Seeraman Forestry Unit in Khao Chamao for an autopsy to confirm the cause of death.

Veterinarian Natanon Panpetch of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said she believes the elephant was still septic and died from infection, not from malpractice by doctors.

It also could have died from heavy metal poisoning from the buckshot initially found in the leg wound, the vet said.

However, wildlife officials and vets staged an “apology ceremony” and laid flower garlands and sprinkled holy water on the dead elephant before it was carted away.

The original version of this story first appeared in the Pattaya Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.