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PACHYDERM PROFILES

       In this feature, we'll give you the opportunity to get to know one of the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp's many residents a little better. This time around, the spotlight's on our Camp's very own "white elephant", Oom Chakawan.

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PHLAI OOM CHAKAWAN ("PHLAI" MEANS ANY MALE "TUSKER")

        He's had his picture on the front page of all the papers and makes regular appearances on the nightly news. Oom Chakawan, one of the Royal Elephant Kraal's newest residents, has the makings of big stardom.
        Hopefully it won't go to his head.
        The 43 year-old bull, whose name means "holds universe", didn't always face such a bright future. Earlier this year, his unscrupulous owners decided that Oom Chakawan's 90 centimeter tusks and aggressive disposition made him more valuable dead than alive. They made arrangements to sell him to a group of illegal "processors" in the grim business of turning live elephants into ivory, meat, "lucky" artifacts, and aphrodisiacs.
        A member of the Thai elephant community in Kanchanaburi heard about the sale and sent out an eleventh-hour appeal for help. Thanks to a fast, generous response by a few concerned individuals, enough money was donated to save Oom Chakawan's life. He was purchased with funds raised by the Elephant Care Assembly (ECA), Thailand's foremost domestic elephant advocacy group, and brought to live at the Kraal on May 26, 2000.
        Upon arrival, Oom Chakawan's unique tusk configuration and other highly distinctive characteristics were immediately noted by ECA experts. They contacted the local representative of the "Gong Chochalasana" (yes, there's an actual government office for such things) regarding the possibility that these traits qualified him as a "white elephant" (and no, they're not really white all over). The experts got some exciting news when they were notified by an officer of the Royal Palace that, although white elephant certification is a multi-step process which takes many months, this "raging bull" was definitely a contender.

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