Bak Mai eats banana leaves after arriving in Ratanakkiri in December. (Airavata Elephant Foundation)
After fleeing captivity, trampling his owner and fatally piercing him with his tusks in a frightening rampage, Bak Mai was chained up and left to starve in a Mondolkiri province forest. Branded a savage, the 32-year-old bull elephant, once popular with tourists, but unable to earn his keep, faced a bleak future.
Villagers had chained Bak Mai’s front and back legs to trees. Mired helplessly in the mud, the elephant ate banana bunches thrown from a distance.