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Race against time to purchase $42k Thai elephant in 'really bad shape'

Internet users are chipping in to try and free the Thai elephant from a life of carting around tourists.

What do you do when cashed-up tourists ignore all of the warnings about elephants and animal cruelty? You buy the elephant.

Internet users are chipping in to raise $42,000 (990,000 Baht) to buy 54-year-old Kham Phaeng and rescue her from a grim existence in a Thai city.

Despite being emaciated and covered in scars, the ageing female is forced to continue to work the sometimes seedy streets of coastal Pattaya, around two hours south of Bangkok.

Daniel Villota (left) and Vicki Kiely (right) are fundraising to buy a 54-year-old elephant named Kham Phaeng. Source: Supplied
Daniel Villota (left) and Vicki Kiely (right) are fundraising to buy a 54-year-old elephant named Kham Phaeng. Source: Supplied

Vicki Kiely from rescue group Unchained Elephants explained to Yahoo News Australia just how bad her condition is. “Her teeth are completely worn down. She’s only got one eye — her right eye is gone. And I think she’s got some parasites in her stomach, so she needs veterinary care,” she said.

“She was previously a trekking elephant and in the logging industry. So you can see from her body, her hips and her back are in really bad shape.”

What will happen to the money raised?

As of Friday, more than 80 per cent of the funds Unchained Elephants needs to rescue Kham Phaeng had been donated. But with only days to go they were working hard to try and acquire enough cash to get them over the line on December 12.

Once purchased, the elephant will be trucked seven hours from Pattaya to Kanchanaburi, where the elephant sanctuary Somboon Legacy Foundation is located.

“We reached an agreement with the owner to buy her freedom, cover the transportation, and then support her at Somboon as well,” Daniel Villota from Unchained Elephants said.

He doesn’t believe the money paid to her owner will be used to send any more elephants into servitude for one key reason.

“The actual camp is in a really bad condition — it’s rundown. They have eight elephants and they need the funds to take care of them,” he said.

He hopes once the purchase is made, they can help the owners transition to more ethical tourism options.

Kham Phaeng is underweight and covered in scars after a life in captivity. Source: Supplied
Kham Phaeng is underweight and covered in scars after a life in captivity. Source: Supplied

More stories about elephants in Thailand

Tourists ignore warnings about elephant cruelty

It’s by working with elephant ride operators that many charities believe they can achieve more positive outcomes.

Despite aggressive marketing campaigns that highlight the horrific methods used to subjugate elephants into submission, tourists continue to purchase rides.

“They're usually tied by their four legs for days to weeks on end, depending how long it takes them to learn the specific tricks they need to do. During this process, they're only given water. They starve them. They beat them. They burn them. They prod them with sticks. They shout at them,” Vicki said.

“It's just It's torture until their will is bent… But when we were with Kham Phaeng we saw tourists coming in, they sounded like they were from America.”

If you wish to donate, you can do so here.

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