Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
RSPCA pledges aid for Thai elephants
This elephant was injured while logging
The RSPCA is to spend £60,000 caring for hundreds of elephants in Thailand, whose lives are at risk because their owners can no longer afford to look after them.
The scheme, which is being launched on Tuesday, is a joint project between the animal charity and the Thai government.
Thai vets have expressed concern that unless the elephants are properly looked after, they will become extinct in the country within the next 20 years.
Most of the country's 6,000 elephants used to work tugging logs in the forests on the Burmese border. But logging was declared illegal because of environmental concerns, and many were taken to the cities.
Some spend their days wandering the back streets, where people pay their owners to pass beneath the elephant's belly, a ritual which is seen as good luck.
Many people are worried that the elephants have outlived their usefulness and are now falling sick because their owners can no longer afford to look after them. Many are suffering from malnutrition.
To tackle this problem, the RSPCA has dispatched a mobile clinic to tour Thailand to dispense first aid to the elephants. Two have already received treatment, one of which was suffering from problems related to a poor diet.
The charity hopes to provide care for more than a thousands elephants over the next two years.