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Thailand flooding strands elephants in Ayutthaya

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    In this photo taken Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, a stranded elephant flips itself while swimming with its mahout in the floodwaters as a boat rows past in Ayutthaya province, central Thailand. Seventeen out of ninety-two elephants were stranded at the elephant camps in Ayutthaya province following floods that submerged north and central part of the country for more than two months. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)

AYUTTHAYA, Thailand >> A group of elephants is facing a second month cut off by floods in this submerged Thai city, stranded on a small concrete island at an animal shelter just a few yards wide.

The group of 17 includes seven pachyderms under 4 years old who were too small to flee when the rest of their nearly 90-strong herd escaped approaching floodwaters that engulfed this historic city north of Bangkok more than a month ago.

"The big elephants are able to wade through the water themselves," 24-year-old keeper Pat Parinnam told The Associated Press on Monday. "But the babies are too small for the mothers to lead them out and the water’s too high, meaning the babies could drown."

So the decision was taken to leave them behind in the care of their mothers at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal, which provides shelter and employment for domesticated Thai elephants.

Today, they stand in the blazing sunshine, waiting for the surrounding water to recede while eagerly devouring enormous quantities of sugar cane and pineapples brought daily by boat.

The adults among them — including two males and a pregnant female — can frolic in the water, stretch their limbs and cool down. But the little ones cannot because they would drown if they stepped into the 6-foot-deep (2-meter-deep) water.

"Yes the elephants are upset. I’m upset too," Parinnam said. "We’re the same, humans and elephants."

The rest of the herd, about 70 elephants, simply walked or swam to safety last month when the floodwaters encroached on their home. They are now in a public park on higher ground in Ayutthaya.


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