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M'kiri clinic to provide care for domesticated elephants

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Chhouk, an elephant rescued in Mondulkiri after losing his foot in a hunter’s snare, was transported to Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre in Takeo province for treatment.

Elephant assistance NGO currently provides treatment through house calls, but plans to consolidate and streamline operation.

THE Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE) has announced plans to open a new health-care centre in four to five months in Mondulkiri province where mahouts will be able to bring their elephants free of charge.

ELIE has been providing free veterinarian assistance for domestic elephants and teaching locals animal husbandry since 2006, but the new health-care centre will allow the organisation to treat sick elephants in one place instead of making house calls every time an elephant falls ill or gets injured.

Chear Chantorn, the assistant project officer for ELIE, said that some domestic elephants in the region drag timber up and down hills for illegal loggers, work so grueling he called it akin to "torture".

"I pity the domestic elephants. We decided this year to create a health-care centre to protect the elephants," he said, stressing that elephant owners will not be charged for the elephant's health services and that they would be trained on how to provide proper care.

ELIE is funding the project through donations and earnings from its ecotourist elephant camp, where visitors to Mondulkiri can pay to ride elephants through the jungle.

By caring for domestic elephants and giving mahouts a chance to take tourists around, Chhouk Sen, the council governor of Mondulkiri's provincial capital, Sen Monorom, said ELIE had helped improve the lives of many members of the local Phnong minority.

"They don't just treat the elephants for free, they provide jobs to our Phnong people and promote tourism in Mondulkiri," he said.

There are currently 63 domestic elephants in Mondulkiri, said Tuy Sariwathna, director of Fauna and Flora International in Mondulkiri, who added that there had been five elephant deaths so far in 2009 compared with just two in all of 2008.

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