Baby Elephant ‘Dumbo’ Dies After Breaking His Legs at Thai Zoo

A baby elephant at a Phuket Zoo in Thailand has died after he broke both his back legs. He had a digestive tract infection at the time that weakened him and led to his death, according to a vet.

He was so weak that he collapsed under his own weight and broke both of his back legs while trying to free himself from mud, Phuket Zoo Manager Pichai Sakunsorn told the Phuket News. The incident occurred on April 13.

“I talked with the mahout who looked after Jumbo,” a vet who cared for the elephant said, according to the news outlet. “Jumbo’s front legs became stuck in some mud while he was holding himself up with his back legs on dry ground.”

“First, he tried to lift himself out with his back right leg, but the bone was too thin and too brittle, and the stress on it caused it to break,” she said. “So he tried to push himself out of the mud with his back left leg, and that broke, too.”

“They managed to get him out of the mud, but at that stage they did not know his back legs were broken,” she said.

Pichai said that vets had advised the zoo to monitor the elephant’s health after the accident.

According to Phuket News, vets had come to check on the elephant between April 13 and 17, but the elephant’s two legs were swollen, and the swelling did not subside.

The elephant was brought to the hospital on April 17.

“He could not stand and was very weak,” the vet, whose name is unknown, told the Phuket News.

At the Elephant Hospital in Krabi, an x-ray revealed that the elephant’s back legs were broken.

“We discovered that his back legs were broken and provided medical treatment,” the vet explained. “But on April 19 he ate very little and he passed away at 3 a.m. on April 20,”

He was three years old.

The elephant was referred to by the news outlet as “Jumbo.” He is also known as “Dumbo,” a name given to him by an animal welfare group called Moving Animals.

A Petition for Dumbo

Last month, Moving Animals launched a petition for Dumbo, calling for help to send the little elephant to a sanctuary.

The group had captured footage of Dumbo dancing for tourists and showing signs of distress.

“Whilst documenting the animals confined to Phuket Zoo in Thailand, we met a skeletal baby elephant who is forced to ‘rave’ to music, ‘play’ musical instruments, and perform tricks, all for tourists’ entertainment,” Moving Animals said on its website, referring to Dumbo.

“We watched as tourists laughed and took selfies, all while this emaciated baby elephant stood with his eyes closed, quietly sucking on his trunk,” the group said. “The cruel life that ‘Dumbo’ is set to endure is heartbreaking.”

Dumbo sucking trunk
Dumbo sucking his trunk. (Courtesy of Moving Animals)

When elephants suck on their trunks, it can be a sign of distress, according to reports.

Manas Thepparuk, chief of Phuket Provincial Office of the Department of Livestock Development (the government regulatory office responsible for working animals), said that after he viewed the video clip, there were no indications Dumbo was abused.

“This baby elephant is fine, but it is thin. My officials will go check the baby elephant’s health today to make sure it is not suffering any infection or digestive problems,” he told the Phuket News in early April.

“By what I can see in the video clip, the baby elephant is working, but I am sure that is animal is [sic] not being harmed,” Manas said.

However, Moving Animals has said the zoo neglected Dumbo.

Allegations of Neglect

Amy Jones, co-founder of Moving Animals, said: “His skeletal body clearly suggested that he was unwell and could be suffering from malnourishment and exhaustion. And yet the zoo did nothing until receiving international criticism.”

“Under their care, this baby elephant broke both of his back legs, and the zoo did not even realize for three days. I can’t bring myself to imagine Dumbo’s suffering during this time,” she said in a statement.

But a veterinarian at the Elephant Hospital said she did not believe that Dumbo had died of abuse or neglect, the Phuket News reported.

“He had an infection in his digestive tract that resulted in Jumbo suffering constant diarrhea, which caused other health complications, including the fact that his body was not absorbing nutrients as it should, which made him very weak,” the vet said.

“I believe that the cause of Jumbo’s condition may have resulted from him being born premature. Also, Jumbo liked bananas and other sweet foods. He refused to eat enough fiber-rich food to remain healthy,” she said.

premature baby elephant Dumbo
Photo shows baby Dumbo suffering from malnourishment. (Courtesy of Moving Animals)

She also said that Dumbo did not die from EEHV (elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus), which is a type of herpes virus that can kill young Asian elephants.

Pichai also denied allegations that Dumbo was being treated inappropriately.

“This elephant baby was worth more than 1 million Baht,” the zoo manager pointed out to the Phuket News. He asked why unscrupulous elephant owners would abuse an elephant to death, the outlet reported.

“Nobody wants to lose something they love,” he told the Phuket News. “We did the best we could do to protect him.”

According to Moving Animals, the elephant’s work included being “forced to rave” for tourists’ amusement.

Jones said: “For ‘Dumbo to die whilst under the so-called ‘care’ and ‘treatment’ of the zoo shows just how neglected these animals are in captivity.”

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