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Rare elephant twins born in dramatic birth in Thailand

An elephant in Thailand has given birth to a rare set of twins in a dramatic birth that left a keeper injured after trying to save one of the newborns.

The 36-year-old Asian elephant named Jamjuree gave birth to an 80-kilogram (176-pound) male at the Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal, north of Bangkok, on Friday evening.

But when a second 60kg calf appeared 18 minutes later, the mother went into a frenzy and attacked her new arrival.

“I heard someone shouting ‘another baby is born!’” said veterinarian Lardthongtare Meepan.

An elephant keeper, also known as a mahout, moved to prevent the mother from attacking her newborn and was instead shot in the ankle.

“The mother attacked the baby because she had never had twins before – it’s very rare,” said Michelle Reedy, director of Elephant Stay, which allows visiting tourists to ride, feed and bathe the elephants at the Royal Kraal.

“The mahouts who are the elephant keepers jumped in there trying to get the baby out so she didn’t kill him,” Reedy told AFP.

Jamjuree has now accepted her calves, which are so small that a special platform has been built to help them lie down to nurse.

They are also given milk expressed through a syringe, Lardthongtare said.

Twin elephants are rare, making up about 1 percent of births, according to research organization Save the Elephants, and male-female twin births are even more unusual.

Oftentimes, mothers don’t have enough milk for both calves, and the pair may not have survived in the wild, Reedy said.

“Whether the rest of the herd would have intervened — they may have, but the child may have been trampled in the process,” she said.

Reedy said many of the center’s 80 elephants were rescued from street begging, a practice that became more common after the 1989 logging ban left mahouts to work in the industry, and their elephants were looking for alternative income.

The practice, which was banned in 2010, involved the animals performing tricks such as playing with balls or carrying baskets of fruit.

Some elephants at the Royal Kraal transport tourists to the nearby ruins and temples of Ayutthaya, the historic former capital of Siam.

Many conservation groups oppose riding elephants, arguing that it is stressful for the animals and often involves abusive training.

The center says the walks allow the animals to socialize and exercise and promote the conservation of the species, which is endangered in Southeast Asia and China.

Only about 8,000-11,000 Asian elephants remain in the wild, according to the WWF.

The animals were once widespread, but deforestation, human encroachment and poaching have decimated their numbers.

The twin calves, fathered by a 29-year-old elephant named Siam, will be named seven days after birth in accordance with Thai custom.

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