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The young Asian Elephant calf, Luk Chai, received blessings for good health and success at Taronga Zoo today.

The ceremony included a traditional Thai blessing by senior monk,Pra Ratcha Silaporn of Wat Buddharangsee in Leumear, and eight monksfrom Canberra and Sydney temples and an ecumenical blessing by Rev BillCrews of the Exodus Foundation. It concluded with water being sprinkledon the young male calf by Pra Ratcha Silaporn.

Taronga Director, Guy Cooper, said: “We’re delighted for young LukChai to receive this blessing.  After his mother, Thong Dee, and theother elephants in our herd arrived from Thailand in 2006, theyreceived an ecumenical blessing from Rev Crews and Buddhist monks.”

“With the successful birth of Luk Chai just two and a half yearslater, the ceremony was very much appreciated by all of us here.Today’s event is followed by a Thai festival to celebrate the birth.”

The Thai Consul General, Khun Kiattikhun, joined Mr Cooper at theceremony recognising the role the Thai Government has had in helpingTaronga and Melbourne Zoos establish a self-sustaining breeding herdfor Asian Elephants in Australia.  Thong Dee’s mahout and formerowners, Mr. Kowit Phengphit, and his family also travelled fromThailand to attend the ceremony.

Mr Cooper said it was traditional for the blessing and festival tooccur together and it provided a unique cultural insight for Zoovisitors.  The naming competition for Luk Chai was also designed toencourage Australians to exploring Thai culture.

Luk Chai’s name was announced by the NSW Premier, the Hon NathanRees MP, at the Zoo on Monday, 27 July.  It was chosen by 10 of the32,000 entrants in the competition.  Taronga’s Elephant keepers choseTessa and Kate Blayney’s entry as best describing the meaning which istranslated as “son”.

The Blayney family from Jannali were at the ceremony for theofficial presentation of the of Thai Airways air travel to Thailand tovisit the Lampang Elephant Conservation Centre with accommodationprovided by the Tourist Authority of Thailand.

Mr Cooper said: “The young elephant is responding well to his newname as he explores his home. He has already been in the moats, the mudwallow and, keepers tell me, is a nuisance at bath time, grabbing thehose with his trunk and spraying everyone.”

Luk Chai can be seen throughout the day, exploring the paddocks,playing with his mother and aunts, Tang Mo, Porntip and Pak Boon and atbathtime in the barn.  Porntip and Pak Boon are also pregnant, withtheir calves due in early 2010 and early 2011 respectively.

The calf’s arrival and the impending births are great successes for the program, confirming the planning and knowledge being applied by the zoos.

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