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       A severe thunderstorm on September 25 at the Royal Elephant Kraal devastated several trees and buildings on the property, and claimed the life of one of the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp's most beloved elephants, a 14 year-old bull named Phlai Bird.
       Lightning struck Bird's sleeping area at 8:30 PM. Aware that something had gone horribly wrong, Camp staff rushed to his side within moments, but Bird had died by the time they reached the scene. He was buried in a private ceremony the following day, with a Buddhist monk from a local temple in attendance.
       Well known to friends of the Camp and visitors to  
www.elephantart.com for his paintings, artwork by Bird also received international print media coverage, and was featured on a segment of "Animal Planet News" by the Discovery Channel. The paintings were always a favorite with guests, and all profits from their brisk sales were used to help feed and care for the 50 elephants who make their home here.
       Following the tragedy, Ayutthaya Elephant Camp Director Sompast Meephan decided that no further prints by Phlai Bird will be sold. The remaining work will be added to a planned display at the Kraal, in honor of the artist's memory. Paintings by the Camp's surviving "elephant artist", Nom Chok, will still be available to the public in the souvenir shop there, as well as by mail.
       Bird's strikingly slim, almost dainty appearance recently captured the attention of acclaimed Hong Kong film director Tsui Hark, for whom the elephant was set to make his major motion picture debut next month in Bangkok. On selecting a replacement, Sompast Meephan had this to say: "The show must go on, but finding an elephant to stand in is a job which does not make me happy." The bull had been under Meephan's care since 1997.
       Our deepest sympathies go to Bird's mahout, Namit (also pictured above), who spent each day of the past three years by the elephant's side. On his behalf, and for the entire staff of the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp, we at www.saveelephant.com bid goodbye to a dear friend.


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