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World's First Elephant Hospital in Thailand

Soraida Salwala opened the World’s First Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang, Thailand in 1993 to treat elephants that are ill or injured as a result of work, abuse or neglect. To date, she and her staff have treated over 3,000 elephants for everything from eye infections to knife wounds, gunshot wounds, broken bones, drug addictions and building prosthetic limbs for the survivors of landmine accidents.

When Soraida Salwala was a young girl, she and her father happened upon an elephant that had been hit by a car. She wanted to take "Uncle Elephant" to the hospital; when her father informed her that there was no hospital for elephants, she was heartbroken. In 1993, Soraida realized a lifelong dream to create a hospital for elephants. The Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital in Lampang, Thailand, is the first of its kind in the world.

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Photo Thilo Thielke / SPIEGEL

Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital assists in medical care and helps to promote a better understanding of the elephant's physiology, important in treating them for illness. For generations elephants have been a part of the Thai culture, although today the Thai elephant mostly is domesticated animal, since Thailand now has few working elephants. Many are used in the tourism sector at special elephant parks or zoos, where they perform in shows. In some cases Thailand is still deals with roaming elephants on the city streets, usually after the mahout, an elephant driver, becomes unemployed, which often causes the elephant serious stress.

Official website


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Photo Thilo Thielke / SPIEGEL

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The founder of the first elephant hospital in the world, Soraida Salwala, before the elephant Motala. (Photo Thilo Thielke / SPIEGEL)

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Boon Mee an 11 year old elephant suffers from a severe wound on his front foot from a land mine injury at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011 Lampang, Thailand.

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A mahout tries to disinfect Boon Mee's wounded foot with some iodine at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011 in Lampang, Thailand. Boon Mee, 11, suffers from a severe wound on his front foot from stepping on a land mine near the Burma border 10 months ago and still needs daily medical care and cannot lay down.

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Kittiya, a Veterinarian student at Chiang Mai University shakes de-worming powder on Boon Mee's wounded foot at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011 in ampang, Thailand.

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Daw Boon gets his intravenous fluids adjusted by a mahout while suffering from a stomach virus at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011in Lampang, Thailand.

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Mokay Dee,19, is treated for her infected stomach wound by a team of mahouts along with Kittaya (Center) and Suchada (right) who are both volunteer Veterinarian students from Chiang Mai University at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011 in Lampang, Thailand.

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Mokay Dee,19, is treated for her infected stomach wound by Kittaya (Center) and Suchada (right) who are both volunteer Veterinarian students from Chiang Mai University at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve on August 28, 2011 in Lampang, Thailand.

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A mahout removes the prosthetic from Motala, age 50, at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve August 29, 2011 Lampang,Thailand. Motala lost a foot many years back after stepping on a land mine and now is on her third prosthetic, as they need to be changed according to the weight of the elephant.

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Motala, age 50, stands in the afternoon sun with the new prosthetic made for her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve August 29, 2011 Lampang,Thailand.

Photos by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images via Avaxnews

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