Friendship: A strong friendship between  His Majesty the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and a Swiss businessman, Fritz von Schulthess, resulted in an equally strong relationship between the two countries.

A token of their friendship that the King sent to Fritz von Schulthess ceased to breathe on May 2, the birth anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

While the nation came together to celebrate the birth anniversary of His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, the last of the two Asian Elephants (Druk and Chukha) that His Majesty gifted his friend in 1968, passed away aged 49.

For the Zurich Zoo in Switzerland, it was parting with one of its most popular attractions.

The zoo released a long obituary for Druk titled “Farewell to a GRANDE DAME”.

She had gone to sleep just before midnight on Monday, but she could not get up the next day, a statement said.

Druk was the oldest mammal at the Zurich Zoo. Druk arrived in Zurich along with the other elephant, Chukha, when she was just 15 months old. Chukha died in 2006 and Druk carried on to be the leader of the elephant herd in the Zoo.

Druk never gave birth but became the aunt of all the young elephants in the zoo, guiding and protecting them.

“Very few people in Switzerland knew about Bhutan at that time. So the elephants acted somehow as Ambassadors of Bhutan to Switzerland,” Fritz Maurer said.

Druk and Chukha arrive in Zurich airport  (1968 ) Photo: Zurich Zoo

Druk and Chukha arrive in Zurich airport (1968 ) Photo: Zurich Zoo

Fritz Maurer is a Helvetas pioneer in Bhutan, who came to the country in 1969 and now is permanently based in Bumthang, married to a Bhutanese woman.

The zoo’s press release said that [Druk] was also an outspoken specialist in breaking thick branches. She knew exactly what angle she had to lean on so they could be broken with her foreleg.

Towards the end of 2014 it became obvious Druk’s eyesight had waned. She ran several times into obstacles. She suffered a fall in mid-April this year, and the zoo had to call fire fighters and a crane to help get her up again.

Since his first visit to Bhutan in 1952, Fritz von Schulthess visited Bhutan 17 more times, developing a close bond with the Bhutanese people. He was also awarded the Druk Yezhen Wangyal medal.

Fritz von Schulthess privately started development initiatives in the mid-1960s and established the Foundation Pro Bhutan in 1972 to intensify assistance and to raise funds for Bhutan in Switzerland.

In July 1975, the programme of the Foundation was handed over to Helvetas.

In 1983, Helvetas and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation jointly opened a coordination office in Thimphu.

Meanwhile, zookeepers gave the other elephants a chance to say goodbye to Druk as the animals do in nature before she was put to sleep.

Tshering Palden


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