With the Phuket zoo closed due to COVID-19, the two companions will be permanently released into their new 250-acre sanctuary home

By Kelli Bender
September 28, 2020 06:16 PM

Two elephants that spent years in Thailand's Phuket Zoo, where they were documented being forced to do tricks for guests, have retired from performing.

According to Moving Animals,  elephants Tang Mo and San Mueng were forced to perform three times a day at the Phuket Zoo before the coronavirus pandemic started. Now, with the Phuket Zoo closed due to COVID-19 and potentially facing permanent closure from the drop in revenue and tourism, the facility is looking to cut costs. As a way to save the elephant pair from a lifetime of entertaining under the threat of a bullhook, the Elephant Nature Park stepped in and offered to take in Tang Mo and San Mueng from the ailing zoo. 

Last year, Moving Animals, a photography and video project dedicated to raising the awareness about the mistreatment of animals at the hands of humans, documented both Tang Mo and San Mueng, along with a baby elephant nicknamed Dumbo, being forced to perform tricks to loud music while the zoo's staff threatened the animals with sharp bullhooks. Unfortunately, Dumbo died shortly after Moving Animals shared their footage from the Phuket Zoo.

Tang Mo and San Mueng continued to live on and perform at the zoo after Dumbo's death, until the pandemic, which forced the zoo to temporarily close. Thanks to Elephant Nature Park's cost-cutting offer to care for the elephants for the rest of their lives, the two animals are getting their first taste of freedom. 

The elephants were recently moved to the 250-acre jungle reserve in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at Elephant Nature Park's expense, and are beginning to adjust to making their owner schedules. 

"As the two have spent the majority of their lives at the zoo, the transition will take time We believe in the healing, beautiful bond these two share and we can’t wait to see them enjoy the rest of their lives together as they remember what it feels like to be an elephant," Ry Emmerson of Elephant Nature Park said in a statement. 

Since moving in, Tang Mo and San Mueng have enjoyed walks around the open, lush sanctuary, snacks of fresh fruit, and the ability to choose how they want to spend their time. The duo accounts for just two of the numerous elephants moving into Elephant Nature Park. The sanctuary has seen a rush in new residents as zoos and elephant camps across Asia struggles to care for their elephants without tourism dollars to support their facilities. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has left Thailand bankrupt of its most crucial source of revenue, tourism. This has had a direct effect on Thailand’s elephants leaving them in a very precarious situation facing lack of daily needs such as food and care. Since Covid-19 hit, we have stepped in to support almost 2000 elephants with their daily needs," Emmerson added.  "This has only been possible thanks to the incredible support we have received from around the world."

You can learn more about Elephant Nature Park and how to support their efforts to give freedom to the world's captive elephants by visiting the sanctuary's website.

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