The Thai Elephant Alliance has reported that 7 elephants suffered serious burns to their mouths from eating grass contaminated with the herbicide paraquat at a border village in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai Province. Five of elephants were reported to be in critical condition.
The paraquat poisoning occurred at Khorphator village in in Omkoi district of Chiang Mai late on Thursday night. The elephants had been set free to forage for food, and ate the grass at nearby farms which had been sprayed with the banned deadly chemical.
Veterinarians and rescue workers were rushed to help after their distress was reported to Chiang Mai University’s Centre for Elephant and Wildlife Research and to the Kusol Songkhor rescue foundation.
It took several hours for the team to reach the remote village, which is near the border with Myanmar.
The vets examined the animals and diagnosed that they were suffering from paraquat poisoning. The banned chemical caused severe burning around their mouths and to their tongues.
They cleaned their injuries and gave them anti-inflammatory medicine.
Five of elephants were diagnosed in critical condition. They were trucked to the Elephant Hospital in Lampang for further treatment, the Thai Elephant Alliance announced on its Facebook page.
The Centre for Elephant and Wildlife Research said the first three had already arrived at the hospital. The others were expected to arrive on Friday evening.
The use of paraquat is illegal in Thailand. The NHSC issued a resolution banning the use of paraquat and chlorpyrifos in agriculture, effective from June 1 last year. Farmers’ groups have lobbied strongly against the ban, arguing they have no alternative chemicals for insect and weed control. Many farmer continue to use the poisonous chemicals despite the ban.