|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
By Paul Kennedy
Elephants, they say, never forget.
And it seems one such animal at a sanctuary in New York is longing to return home to Việt Nam.
Fritha, a 44-year-old pachyderm, was taken to the United States after she was injured during a napalm attack in Viet Nam’s war against America.
She suffered serious burns and soldiers at the time decided she would have a better chance of survival in the US.
Since touching down in America, she has lived at a rescue centre in Orange County.
But it seems she has been harbouring thoughts of returning to her roots.
On Sunday night it appears she hatched a plan to make a bolt for it, possibly after hearing about the good work being carried out at Yok Don National Park which is offering the first ever ethical elephant tours where visitors can experience the animals living in the wild.
Maybe Fritha dreamt of roaming free around the beautiful countryside surrounding Yok Don and interacting with elephants she may have known from the past.
It has been more than 30 years since she left Việt Nam so she is clearly one very homesick animal.
But sadly for Fritha, her plans didn’t come to fruition and after her daring escape she was found wandering down a road in the district of Westtown.
Reports from the US say she got a little peckish after making a run for it, and stopped off at a barn on the way to tuck into some hay, possibly to keep her strength up for the long journey ahead.
She escaped after noticing the electronic fence had not been activated.
Sanctuary owner Amanda Brook told ABC News: "She has an electric fence that keeps her contained, and just human error, they forgot to flip her switch on and it makes a clicking noise and elephants are very, very smart and she knows that clicking noise wasn’t on."
After the alarm was raised, State Trooper Sgt Dave Scott was able to spot the ‘fugitive’ wandering down the street.
Clearly any camouflage Fritha was wearing didn’t help her blend in with her surroundings.
But the trooper still had work to do. Facing off with such a large escapee is certainly a tough task and without the aid of back-up, Scott needed to act fast.
"I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t gotten a hold of the owners," Scott said. "It’s not like you can call the local dog warden and have him pick up an elephant."
Thankfully Fritha decided to come quietly and in fact knowing her escape plot had failed, this time, walked peacefully with the cop back to her sanctuary.
She may have lost this particular battle but no doubt is plotting another bid for freedom very soon.
Of all the places to live, it’s fair to say Fritha could have done a lot worse. The sanctuary is based on 270 acres and is home to more than 600 animals including wolves, bears, camels and a tiger. VNS