This is a true story about a real, live elephant who lives in Thailand, and her name is Motala. And what happened to her was that back in 1999, when she was 38 years old, she was working in a logging camp in Myanmar, and she stepped on a land mine, which is a kind of bomb that is hidden under the ground, and you don't even know it is there until you step on it and get blown up. So anyway, Motala was doing a little browsing during break time, and she stepped on this land mine and it blew off her left front foot.
So by the time they got there, Motala's foot was really infected, and she was in a lot of pain, and people said they even saw tears coming from her eyes. The story about Motala was in all the news in Thailand, and everyone wanted to help her because elephants are a special national symbol in Thailand, and people really care about them. So lots of Thais donated money, and they raised $110,000 to pay for an operation on Motala's leg. And a bunch of veterinarians and surgeons said they would help.
The plan after that was to try to make a new leg for Motala, but her wound was really slow about healing, and 2 years later, part of it still hadn't healed up. So she had to have more surgery. But then some people got jealous because Motala was so famous, and they made death threats against her. Then they put 3 king cobras on one of the paths that Motala walked on a lot. King cobras are very, very poisonous, and no one had ever seen any of them in that area before. Also sometimes at night people would drive by the house of the woman who started the elephant hospital and yell threats at her.
But anyway, Motala had her second surgery, and finally her leg got healed, and she got her first prosthetic, which is a long word for "fake leg." This first leg was mostly like a bag full of sand and wood chips. And it had to be very strong because Motala weighed 4 tons.
And then earlier this year, Motala got a really pretty leg that looks like a real elephant's leg, with toes and everything. I think she looks very happy wearing it.
Anyway, the story of Motala has made people more aware of what is happening with elephants in Thailand. Back in 1900, there were about 100,000 domesticated elephants there, but now there are only about 2,500. And the elephants that are left have trouble finding jobs, since it is now illegal to do logging in Thailand, which is what the elephants were mostly used for. So that is why some people take their elephants to Myanmar to do illegal logging there. And then when they go there, they might step on land mines, like Motala did, because there are all these ethnic groups and soldiers fighting each other in that country. And besides that, people feed drugs called amphetamines to their elephants to make them work harder, and that's not very good for the elephants.
But the good news is that now more injured elephants can be helped by Friends of the Asian Elephant, which was founded by a woman named Soraida Salwala in 1993. She has been interested in helping elephants ever since she was a child, and had helped a whole bunch of them, which I think is a very good thing. And if you want to see more pictures of Motala, you can go here: http://animom.tripod.com/motala.html