HA NOI — Five-year-old circus elephant Kham Bun has died amid media speculation that he had been neglected.
But although post-mortem results as to the cause of his death will not be available for several days, Viet Nam Circus Federation Animal Group director Ta Duy Nhan insists the animal died from a severe injury to his left front foot.
The foot was ensnared in a trap in Central Highland Dak Lak Province in 2006.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered Kham Bun sent to the Circus Federation in 2007 after forest rangers rescued him and treated his wound.
But the injury has limited his career as a performer and a few days ago it was rumoured that his lower leg might have to be amputated.
"The injury did not heal after he was caught in the trap," explained director Nhan.
Abscesses and puss often gathered about the injury.
The elephant was given anti-biotic injections whenever the wound became infected.
"It's impossible to attribute the elephant's death to neglect," he said. "Even foreign veterinarians would not have been able to successfully treat so severe an injury."
Master Veterinary Degree holder Nguyen Hai Dang, who works for the federation, explained that the limited ability of veterinarians and poor equipment had prevented a proper diagnosis of the elephant's ailment.
Viet Nam Circus Federation director Vu Ngoan Hop said Vietnamese veterinarians were not familiar with the treatment of animals such as elephants.
Many knowledgeable people had agreed that Kham Bun should have been returned to his natural habitat, he said.
The federation had asked the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry to allow Kham Bun to go to a park in Vinh.
"The ministry responded by asking us to work with the Department of Performing Arts, but the federation had not received any reply from the department for more than a month," he said.
Nguyen Thanh Ha, who learned about Kham Bun's plight on television, believes he was not properly treated and should have been returned to the forest to recover his health.
"The elephant should have been sent back to his mother," she said.
"Instead, he was confined to a chain all day long."
Ha, who had visited the elephant every day to feed and talk to him during the past three years, said: "He loved me very much and I considered him my son."
Her white wreath for the elephant carried the words: "Mum pays tribute to Kham Bun."
"I want everyone to protect wild animals and not hunt and kill them," said a tearful Ha.
Formerly part of a 20-member herd, Kham Bun caught the attention of the public after stories about his injury and other endangered elephants were featured in a 2007 Viet Nam television documentary.
The elephant's corpse would eventually be sent to the Viet Nam Nature Museum to do research, said Viet Nam Circus Federation veterinarian Nguyen Hai Dang. — VNS