YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar says it has found a rare, white elephant in the jungles of the western Ayeyarwaddy region.
Forestry official Tun Tun Oo says the 7-year-old female was captured by his department on Friday, six weeks after it was initially spotted in a reserve in Pathein township.
“We had to be careful,” he said. “It’s wild. We didn’t want the elephant or the forestry department officials to get hurt.”
White elephants, actually albinos, have for centuries been revered in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and other Asian nations.
Often pinkish in color, with fair eyelashes and toenails, the animals were normally kept and pampered by monarchs as a symbol of royal power and prosperity — and many people still believe they bring good luck to the country.
Myanmar has eight white elephants in captivity, most from the Ayeyarwaddy region. Five are now in the zoo in the capital, Naypyitaw, and three in Yangon.
According to The World Wildlife Fund, there are between 25,600 and 32,750 Asian elephants remaining in the wild. Only males carry tusks and are the exclusive victims of poaching for their ivory.
The capture of wild elephants for domestic use has become a threat to wild populations. India, Vietnam, and Myanmar have banned capture in order to conserve their wild herds, but in Myanmar elephants are still caught each year for the timber industry or the illegal wildlife trade, the WWF says.