Wounded elephant's fate weighs on many Vietnamese

Thu May 14, 2009 7:27am EDT
 
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By Ho Binh Minh

HANOI (Reuters Life!) - A circus elephant has become a poster pachyderm against poaching of his endangered Asian species, capturing the hearts of many Vietnamese after an old wound caused by a trap flared up.

The fate of Kham Bun made headlines in Vietnam recently after the Hanoi circus said the elephant, who was rescued by rangers in 2007, might need to have its front leg amputated because the wound had started to gape again.

Kham Bun was captured, and wounded, in 2006 in the central highland province of Daklak.

The poachers tried to treat his wound then, but it was never properly cured and the elephant, who was given to the circus on orders from the government, was unable to perform.

Vietnam's population of the Elephas maximus, or Asian elephant, has been declining rapidly in recent decades due to deforestation and illegal hunting.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are about 150 elephants left in the country's forests, down from between 1,500 to 2,000 nearly two decades ago.

Newspapers said several people, many of them children, had offered to pay for Kham Bun's food and medical care after hearing his story. A traditional medicine practitioner even traveled to Hanoi from Buon Don village, where Kham Bun was first caught and treated, to help save his leg.

On Thursday, veterinarians and circus director Vu Ngoan Hop decided amputation was unnecessary and that the elephant's wound could be treated.   Continued...

 
<p>Veterinarian Nguyen Hai Dang (L) and elephant specialist Kham Phet Lao check the health of circus elephant Kham Bun inside its enclosure in Hanoi May 14, 2009. Kham Bun has become a poster pachyderm against of his endangered Asian species, capturing the hearts of many Vietnamese after an old wound caused by a trap flared up. The fate of Kham Bun has made headlines in Vietnam after the Hanoi circus said the elephant, who was rescued by rangers in 2007, might need to have its front leg amputated because the wound had started to gape again. REUTERS/Kham</p>