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ELEPHANT GETTING FREEDOM AFTER 20 YEARS IN CHAINS

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Bowing to pressure from animal lovers, a Buddhist abbot has agreed to free a 20-year-old elephant he had chained to his temple since it was a baby.

The head of the government's religious affairs department on Tuesday persuaded the monk to let the animal be transferred to the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok, said Pong- sak Vejjajiva, founder of the Wild Animal Rescue Foundation."We plan to feed him in the zoo for a while to see his condition and to teach him to walk," said Alongkorn Mahantanop, the director of the zoo. "Then we will send him to live in a national park."

The elephant, Diamond, is skinny and is suffering from injuries to its legs inflicted by the chains.

His plight prompted protests from wildlife groups and the public, including a Cabinet minister who donated 100,000 baht ($4,000) to the campaign to free the animal. Elephants have an exalted place in traditional Thai culture.

The abbot, Phra Kru Udom Pawanaphirat, has been using Diamond to attract worshipers and donations at his temple in Pathum Thani, 15 miles north of Bangkok, wildlife activists said. The monk at first demanded money for Diamond's release.

Thai newspapers reported Diamond's plight when floods recently inundated the temple, and Diamond had to fend for himself in the high water.