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Thursday, October 7, 1999 Published at 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Landmine elephant's steps to recovery

Motala enjoys her first steps in two months

Motala, the Thai elephant injured when she trod on a landmine in August, has been taking her first unaided steps as her recovery from surgery continues.

The Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation said the three-tonne pachyderm took her first steps on Tuesday at the hospital where she is being treated in northern Lampang province.

[ image: Surgeons had to borrow a crane to support Motala during her treatment]
Surgeons had to borrow a crane to support Motala during her treatment
Vets accompanying her say she seemed to enjoy her regained mobility, taking time to lie on the open ground - a change from the cold cement floor she has been on for the last five weeks.

"It took a long time for Motala to walk for 30 metres, but she seems so happy," said Preecha Puangkham, head of Hang Chat Elephant Hospital.

"I can feel the joy she has from being outside, even though it looks painful to go around hobbling on her three good legs."

He said that Motala would undertake 20 minutes of exercise each day "to keep her mental state healthy."

Painful walk

[ image: Vets says it is important to keep Motala's spirits high]
Vets says it is important to keep Motala's spirits high
Motala, 38, trod on the mine whilst working to move logs near the Thai-Burmese border.

More than three days painful walk away from help, the blast away part of Motala's front left foot.

Using a borrowed crane to support Motala's massive weight, surgeons at the hospital undertook a pioneering operation to patch up her wounded foot and clear infected tissue.

The operation left her leg a few centimetres shorter than the other three.

Elephants are revered as the national symbol of Thailand and Motala's condition became headline news on Thai TV.

Despite Thailand's economic crisis donations to aid Motala's recovery flooded in from across the country, totalling more than $105,000.

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