Thai nursing home set to receive aging elephants

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A new nursing home in Lampang province, Thailand, is opening next month. Set on nearly 400 acres of open land, the facility will encourage its new admissions to wander and to bathe in a stream. Thirty of the new residents—elephants, that is—already have moved in.

The Pang-La Nursing Home for Aged Elephants, which is set to open Nov. 21, will be able to serve up to 200 elephants at once, say officials from the Forest Industry Organization, which will operate the facility. Staffed by veterinarians and mahouts (trained elephant handlers), the shelter also grows its own food for the pachyderms, including pineapple and banana trees, tall grass and special herbs that promote the animals' health. The area is already home to two dedicated elephant hospitals.

Elephants in Thailand had previously been used as work animals, mostly to carry logs. Because of logging restrictions, however, many elephant handlers use the animals for tourism or begging purposes. One of the facility's residents, 53-year-old Pang Bua-Kam, was recently rescued from the streets of Bangkok, and is blind in one eye, the Bangkok Post reported. The workers at the new nursing home will take care of these elephants “until their last breath,” FIO chief Manoonsak Tantiwiwat said.