Diagnosed six weeks ago by the ElefantAsia mobile clinic, Phu Thongkoon aged 44 was transferred to the Elephant Hospital located at the Center in Sayaboury for treatment. Having not eaten nor drunk in ten days, the bull elephant was so weak and emaciated there was difficulty finding someone willing to transport the animal from his home of Ban Nakang village. Buddhist belief is that elephants like humans have 32 Kwan or body spirits and the truck drivers were afraid that the animal would die in transit and his spirit haunt their vehicle.
Previously employed within the logging industry in the district of Paklay, Phu Thongkoon is thought to have contracted the infection whilst working, the bacteria causing the tetanus infection being commonly found in soil enters the body through deep penetrating wounds. The disease, also known as “Lockjaw”, is extremely rare in elephants this case being the first encountered by ElefantAsia in Laos in over a decade. For this reason elephants are not routinely vaccinated against tetanus however vaccination against the infection is available.
Usually fatal in elephants with 80-90% mortality, the ElefantAsia veterinary team have slowly nursed the elephant back to health providing around the clock care. Anti-toxins were prescribed to fight the infection whilst the team physically fed and rehydrated the animal. Day by day the vets saw small progress as the elephant regained his strength.
The ‘baci’ ceremony was held at the Elephant Conservation Center on Monday 2 July to celebrate Phu Thongkoon’s survival. Honoured guests included delegates from the Provincial and District Agriculture and Forestry Offices from Sayaboury; the Department of Livestock and Fisheries; ElefantAsia vets Will Thomas, Lorna Broughton and Oui Sakornwimon as well as the elephant owner Mr Vansai Phimmasone.
Owner of three elephants, Mr Phimmasone is thrilled with the recovery of Phu Thongkoon and expressed his gratitude to all involved, with special thanks extended to all the sponsors whom funded the elephant’s care. The cost of treatment for Phu Thongkoon rose in excess of $3,000 which was supported by generous donations received within Laos and from abroad.
Phu Thongkoon has now returned to his village in Paklay district where he will be rested for the remainder of the year.