Elephant in Thailand dies after eating tainted bananas fed by tourists

The elephant’s trainer said the culprit was bananas treated with ethylene gas. They were likely bought from the markets. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - A 20-year-old elephant in Thailand died after tourists fed it with bananas that had been treated with ethylene gas, reported The Thaiger news outlet.

The male elephant at the Kaebai Meechai Elephant Camp in Koh Chang, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, fell sick with flatulence and indigestion after eating the bananas offered by tourists a few weeks ago.

The elephant’s mahout (trainer) Chaisawan “Nueng” Phisin said the culprit was bananas that had been treated with ethylene gas. They were likely bought from markets.

The camp’s owner Sakchai Khanrakul said the elephant had been raised at the camp since he was born and had never fallen ill, reported The Thaiger.

A veterinarian from the Elephant Hospital in Lampang province was called in to treat the elephant. But the animal’s condition worsened and he died last Saturday.

Mr Sakchai said: “We loved him and (we) had a strong connection. We looked after him very well, he was very happy, and his favourite food was sugarcane and bananas.

“The animal was worth four to five million baht ($196,000). There is a group that wants to buy his carcass for 100,000 baht, but it is not for sale.”

He added that the body of the elephant would be buried.

At fresh markets and stores, fruits are often placed in containers with ethylene gas to fasten the ripening process. However, the gas can be fatal for elephants.

Mr Phakphong Sangwiset, director of Phattana Animal Hospital in Lampang, said elephants like to eat leaves, grass, sugarcane and bananas, and can occasionally eat watermelon, cucumber and other fruits as a treat.

However, the fruits must be clean and not treated with chemicals.

In the wild, Asian elephants have an average lifespan of about 60 years, although some live well into their 70s. In captive settings, such as camps, zoos and wildlife parks, they are known to live to a similar age with proper care and nutrition.

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