Source: AFP
Date: 4 September 2008

Elephant kicks heroin habit
with China island rehab: reports

picture of Asian elephant

BEIJING (AFP) — An elephant has kicked his heroin habit after a three-year stint on an island rehab in southern China, an official and state media said Thursday.

The four-year-old Asian elephant, called Xiguang, has now being transported to a wildlife reserve in southwest China after being cured of his addiction with some clean living on Hainan island, Xinhua said.

Xiguang became hooked on the narcotic after animal smugglers captured him and other elephants by luring them with bananas laced with heroin in 2005, the official news agency said.

"The four elephants are arriving here from Hainan tomorrow," wildlife park official Mr Xu, who refused to give his full name, told AFP on Thursday.

Police caught the smugglers in May 2005 on the border between China and Myanmar, and noticed that Xiguang was acting strangely, the Beijing News website reported.

His eyes kept streaming, he made continuous trumpeting noises, and was finally diagnosed with withdrawal symptoms from the drug, the report said.

Xiguang was sent to a wild animal protection centre in Hainan, where rehabilitation experts and vets gave him injections of methadone -- five times the dose needed for a human being -- for a year, Xinhua said.

After a year, he had started to recover, and the dose of medicine was progressively reduced.

The animal is now being transported 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) across southern China to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.

The Asian elephant is an endangered species, with only 25,600 to 32,750 left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The animals are victims of conflict with humans, as they destroy plantations and fields in their quest for food, leading to retaliatory killings. They also fall prey to poachers for their ivory, the fund says.

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