The health of two elephants at the centre of a controversial proposed animal swap between zoos in Cambodia and Japan is deteriorating, just a month after the NGO caring for them was ejected from a Kampot zoo.
Photographic evidence of elephants Kiri and Seila compiled at Teuk Chhou Zoo in Kampot province this week shows protruding bones and one of the elephants resorting to eating grass from the ground outside its enclosure.
According to elephant conservationist Lek Chailert, who has offered the pair a home in a sanctuary she runs in Siem Reap province, they now appear extremely underfed.
“From the photos, it seems that both elephants have lost weight, leaving us all worrying about their condition,” said Chailert yesterday.
In September, conservation group EARS Asia was barred from entering Teuk Chhou Zoo after three years of funding their upkeep.
That followed the group’s vocal opposition to Kiri and Seila’s inclusion in a proposed swap with the Hirakawa Zoo in southern Japan.
EARS fears the journey would be unduly stressful and facilities in Hirakawa Zoo inadequate, while the deplorable conditions at Teuk Chhou suggest it does not have the resources to take on new animals.
EARS Asia has now launched a letter-writing campaign to put pressure on authorities in Cambodia and Japan, after receiving more than 40,000 signatures to petitions calling for the trade to be stopped.