Birth of a Rare White Elephant in Myanmar

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Photo released on August 2, a rare white elephant calf in the western Myanmar– AFP

In Myanmar’s Rakhine State, a rare white elephant was born, as reported by the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation on Tuesday.

Considered a divine omen by the Buddhist-majority state, the baby elephant came to this world last month with 80kg in weight and 70cm in height, according to a Myanmar Newspaper.

Born to a 33-years old mother elephant, Zar Nan Hla, the baby hasn’t been named yet. It has seven out of eight distinctive characteristics that are related to the rare white elephants: eyes with pearl-like color, a back that looks like a plantain branch, white hair, a distinct and unique tail, specific skin markings, reddish brown or pinkish skin, and five claws on the front legs and

Mother and Calf, both are happy and healthy
(Credits: Myanmar Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation-Forestry)

White elephants held immense significance in the ancient times of the South East Asian region. The possession of this creature was considered a fortune booster, as the emperors would make efforts to acquire as many as possible.

These elephants were so highly valued that during the sixteenth century, Siam and Burma, now Thailand and Myanmar, went to war over the desire for two white elephants.

Royal white elephant in Thai painting

However, today, the expression “White Elephant” in English literature refers to something useless, costly to maintain, and cannot be easily disposed of. This phrase is also rooted in ancient times when the cost of keeping the white elephant lavishly and its maintenance was exorbitant.

The white elephants, once having immense significance, are now only destined to be caged somewhere in Myanmar. Moreover, the reactions and dissent of the people to this news have also been dampened due to the ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar.

The mother should be left alone in the wilderness with her calf instead of caging them and spending a fortune on their maintenance.


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Ayesha Ashraf
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