The Mobile Elephant Clinic (MEC), started in 1999, brings free medical care to the privately-owned elephants that comprise over 95% of the Thai population. Many of these elephants would not receive proper care without the MEC. The MEC travels at least 70,000 kilometers a year in specially equipped 4-wheel drive vehicles, mostly in the north but anywhere in the country for special cases or when doing research.
The MEC serves everybody equally, from large commercial elephant tourist camps to remote and mountainous hilltribe villages. Between 2005 and 2008, 1386 elephants - about 40% of the Thai population - were treated, many of then more than once for different complaints.
All elephants are first carefully assessed for body condition. Most of the care given is preventative medicine, such as de-worming, eradicating external parasites, administering injections, and more. All mahouts and camps are given containers full of basic medicines, bandages, antiseptics and more.
Elephants are treated for wounds and illnesses. Gastro-intestinal complaints are most frequent, but eye problems, musculoskeletal problems, and work-related injuries are common. Infectious diseases are relatively rare, the most common being septicemia among calves. Some 154 cases in need of intensive daily care were sent to the TECC's Hospital. (See Hospital Work.)
The MEC also offers education programs. The MEC veterinarians teach care techniques to mahouts while treating patients. The vets also distribute Thai language copies of the Elephant Care Manual for mahouts and camp managers, a basic health care book produced by the Forest Industry Organization and the TECC under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The MEC is supported by numerous government agencies, notably the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. The MEC was first sponsored by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (1999-2001) and then by the World Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (2005-2008). The next five years of funding will come from the Danish Animal Welfare Society.