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Illegal Traders Drug Elephant in Bid to Sell Herd
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A male elephant from southwest China's Yunnan Province has been cured of its addiction to drugs and will soon return to the Xishuangbanna Tropical Rainforest in Yunnan.

Before April 2005, the elephant, named Big Brother, lived peacefully with its herd near the Sino-Myanmar border. But in that year, several illegal elephant traders set their sights on Big Brother and its herd. To control it so that it could lead the herd to where they wanted, the traders kept feeding it bananas laced with drugs.

In less than one month, Big Brother became so addicted that it began to drool and twitch when not given the drugs.

Soon, it led the herd to follow the traders to a forest near Dehong, Yunnan, where they were to be sold. But the traders were caught red-handed after a whistle-blower reported them to the Dehong forest police.

While driving the herd back to Xishuangbanna, Big Brother started drooling and bellowing and even tried to run away. The police were surprised to learn from one of the traders that it was suffering from withdrawal symptoms and could pose a danger to people, if not fed drugs immediately.

The elephants were initially kept in a wildlife rescue center in Dehong, but were soon moved to the Yunnan Safari Park as the center lacked the facilities for their care,

The park authorities had thought Big Brother would forget drugs if kept in isolation, but it had been fed drugs for so long that it began to suffer severe withdrawal symptoms and became so wild that even its iron chain could not contain it.

The park had to send it to the Tropical Wildlife Park in south China's Hainan Province at the end of 2005 for treatment. The park found that the elephant had been fed heroin and decided to use the same treatment as used for human addicts.

Vets injected it with methadone hydrochloride, a medicine used to counter heroin dependence. Each time, vets injected the elephant with 50 milligrams of the medicine, 40 milligrams more than the dosage for an adult person.

Each day, keepers guarded Big Brother round the clock, fed it fresh grass, sugarcane and fruits, bathed and massaged it. It gradually began to recover.

Even when it suffered its seizures, it would just cry in pain and seldom tried to break loose.

According to Chen Yisheng, a park vet, it took about a year to help Big Brother quit drugs.

Park chief Xu Tou said the park would soon send the elephant to the Wild Elegant Valley in Xishuangbanna to join other Asian elephants.

(China Daily August 30, 2007)

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