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H.E. Chuch Phoeurn, Secretary of State
Directorate of Museums and Directorate of Heritage
227 Kbal Thnal
Preah Norodom Boulevard
Sangkat Tonle Bassac
Khan Chamkar Mon
Phnom Penh 12305
9th November 2011
Dear H.E. Chuch Phoeurn
Dr Paolo Martelli, DMV (liege), CertZooMed (RCV, Chief veterinarian from Ocean Park in Hong Kong, traveled to Phnom Penh on Saturday 29th October 2011 to examine Sambo, the elephant who gives rides at Wat Phnom temple.
Sambo’s owners were eagerly awaiting our arrival and welcomed medical advice. EARS elephant foundation in Hong Kong funded and supported this entire trip.
On Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th October 2011, Dr Martelli carried out his assessment on Sambo, which included X-rays of her feet.
The Conclusion of this medical report is listed below:
Although Sambo is well looked after and in overall good apparent health, she is gravely and painfully lame as a result of pododermatitis, osteitis, ostoelysis, deep sepsis and other lesions as described above. The right wrist and the left elbow are under excessive strain. Although unequivocal confirmation may not be possible due to the size of the animal, we believe that these 2 joints are already undergoing degenerative changes (thermography may be helpful to determine if this is the case but would not alter the treatment).
Furthermore if the lameness is not improved drastically it will lead to degeneration of all joints in all limbs. This will result in an incapacitated animal. The main reason explaining the limb lesions is the lifestyle of the animal, which involves walking on hard ground, and walking on hard ground on damaged feet. Now that her gait is abnormal the lesions will continue to worsen. Other organ systems will suffer and the animal will reach a point where recovery will be impossible. We believe that full resolution of the lameness may not be achievable but that a dramatic improvement can be reached if the treatment plan below is implemented. We estimate that we are looking at an 18 to 24 months plan.
It is imperative that a multi faceted treatment plan be started as soon as possible.
The report was discussed in a meeting with Dr Martelli, Sambo’s owners and EARS elephant foundation. Dr Martelli stated that Sambo URGENTLY needs to stop walking on hard surfaces then treatment can commence. EARS is willing to support the medical program. This was explained to the owner but he refused to stop walking Sambo to Wat Phnom which is a 4 km round trip. EARS cannot begin medical assistance until Sambo has stopped walking on hard asphalt roads.
The owner is aware that his elephant needs urgent medical treatment yet he continues to work her. This is animal abuse and cruelty and is not what foreign tourists visiting your country will want to see. Wat Phnom is a cultural heritage site, allowing an old sick elephant to give trekking rides is not a good representation of Cambodian culture.
The longer Sambo is forced to work, the more tourists will know about this poor sick elephant standing at your temple and it will have an adverse effect on the Eco Tourism that you are trying so hard to achieve for Phnom Penh and Cambodia.
There is an international media campaign underway involving newspapers, travel agencies, internet travel websites, and animal welfare organizations making people aware of this abuse to Sambo.
The letter campaign will continue until there is a ban on elephants in the city of Phnom Penh and Sambo gets the retirement she urgently needs.
We kindly ask for you to implement the following IMMEDIATELY:
1. RETIRE SAMBO TO A RESCUE CENTRE OR SANCTUARY WHERE SHE CAN GET URGENT MEDICAL CARE
2. BAN ELEPHANTS FROM THE CITY SO SAMBO IS NOT REPLACED
PLEASE END SAMBO’S PAIN NOW