A 3-year-old baby elephant in the Phuket Zoo, deemed by netizens ‘Dumbo’, passed away due to the stress of performing and the living conditions he was forced to endure. According to campaign group Moving Animals, Dumbo was required to perform thrice a day and was forcibly taken away from his mother. He had been showing signs of malnourishment for some time before the news of his death broke.
Dumbo was reported to have broken his back legs in one of his performances when they got stuck in the mud. At the time, he had already been suffering through an infection in his digestive tract for months. His skeletal state pointed to malnourishment and exhaustion as well. Altogether, the vet which attended to Dumbo said these all compounded and “made him very weak”, to the point that “his body was not absorbing nutrients as it should.”
Moving Animals had been running a campaign for Dumbo to be released before this tragedy. They posted of his death on their page:
It now turns out that [Dumbo] had an infection in his digestive tract, and he became so weak that his back legs snapped beneath him. Despite this, the zoo did not realise his legs were broken for three days, until the baby elephant was finally taken to an elephant hospital.
For “Dumbo” to die whilst under the so-called “care” and “treatment” of the zoo shows just how neglected these animals are in captivity.
We want to thank everyone for their overwhelming support for “Dumbo”. We hope that “Dumbo” is now finding the peace that he was so cruelly denied in his lifetime, and that his tragic story will urge Thai authorities to finally put an end to outdated animal performances.
Photo from Moving Animals
While Zoo manager Pichai Sakunsorn has said on the matter:
Veterinarians from the Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) advised us to keep a close eye on his health because he was becoming weak from an infection. The vets came to check on him and provided him medical treatment, but he was not getting better.
His condition kept deteriorating, so he we had him taken to the Elephant Hospital in Krabi, where he was admitted on April 17.
Thailand’s DLD is still to conduct an investigation into the death of Dumbo but has already determined the Phuket Zoo has not broken any laws. As such, the zoo will continue to be allowed to purchase another baby elephant. Popular sentiment of the zoo, however, is largely against its practices and ethics.
While Thailand is popularly known for its reverence of elephants and its different elephant attractions, perhaps more sustainable alternatives would be better looked into. Ethical wildlife sanctuaries like the Elephant Retirement Park Phuket or the Elephant Nature Park are options you can still feel good about visiting. Or try skipping the elephants altogether and focus on their temples, shopping, and food trips!
Do you think animals should be kept in zoos? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!