Sri Lanka's 'auspicious' baby jumbo won't fly

COLOMBO (AFP) - Sri Lanka stopped a baby elephant from being given as a gift to South Korea after discovering it was born on an auspicious day, a minister said on Wednesday.

The baby "Dinu Daa" - meaning day of victory - was born on May 18, 2009, the same day troops killed Tamil rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, ending the country's civil war.

With the killing of Prabhakaran and his entire military leadership, Colombo declared an end to 37 years of ethnic bloodshed which had claimed at least 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

"There is a special significance of this baby elephant. It is a symbol of our victory," Special Projects minister S.M. Chandrasena told reporters in Colombo.

President Mahinda Rajapakse decided to stop the elephant being flown to South Korea after he was told about its birth date, minister Chandrasena said.

Dinu Daa was born at the country's main Pinnawala elephant orphanage. It shelters over 80 elephants, most of which were abandoned or separated from their herds when they were babies.

Many have also been born at the orphanage and the offspring are sometimes given as gifts to Buddhist temples to be paraded during annual pageants or sent abroad as presents.