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Injured Elephant Walks Again

Motola, the elephant maimed by a land mine and saved by emergency surgery to amputate her foot last month, took her first walk since the operation Tuesday.

The veterinarians tending the 38-year-old elephant said the stroll appeared to boost the animal's spirits.

"It took a long time for Motola to walk for 30 meters, but she seems so happy," said Preecha Puangkham, head of Hang Chat Elephant Hospital in the northern province of Lampang. "I can feel the joy she has from being outside, even though it looks painful to go around hobbling on her three good legs," he said.

Preecha and an elephant trainer kept Motola company on her first walk in almost 40 days. Preecha noticed the elephant eating fresh weeds and leaves she found along the way.

"Her sleep and appetite are good. From now on, Motola will enjoy some 20 minutes of walking every day as part of the treatment to keep her mental state healthy," Preecha said.

Doctors amputated Motola's left front foot after it was mangled when she stepped on a land mine in the border area between northern Thailand and Myanmar.

Her recovery has been difficult: She has been weakened by the stress of having to support her 5,940-pound bulk on her uninjured legs, and her survival has been in doubt. But her prognosis has improved this week, and her doctors have been trying out a splint on her bad leg.

Riecken's Orthotic Laboratory, an orthopedics company in Evansville, Ind., has offered to donate the materials needed for a permanent artificial foot, but doctors are unlikely to begin work on that until her wound heals further.