Heroin addicted elephant unfit for wild after rehab

October 21st, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Kunming (China), Oct 21 (Xinhua) An Asian elephant that spent three years in rehab for heroin addiction in southwest China has been declared unfit to be returned to the wild, zoo authorities have said.The four-year-old elephant, Xiguang, was captured from the China-Myanmar border in March 2005 by illegal traders who fed him heroin-laced bananas.

Five other elephants along with Xiguang were also captured by the smugglers, but the animals were captured by police two months later.

Four of them, including Xiguang, were later sent to a wild animal protection centre in the southern Hainan Island.

Xiguang was cured of his addiction after a three-year treatment that included methadone injections five times stronger than human doses.

The four elephants were brought back to the Yunnan Wild Life Park last month and will spend the winter at the Xishuangbanna Wild Elephant Valley in Yunnan.

“Three years of domestic life and a huge amount of rehabilitation medication has changed the physical situations, odours and habits of Xiguang and the other elephants,” said Pan Hua, the park’s deputy manager.

“They may become the target of attacks by other beasts if they are sent back to the wild. Some are easily irritable now and may hurt humans. They can’t go back to the wild anymore,” he said.

The elephants will stay in the valley and be cared for by zoo keepers.

The Asian elephant is the largest land animal in the region, with an estimated 50,000 living in the wild throughout the continent.

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