Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Elephant deaths lead to probe

Elephant deaths lead to probe

Rescued elephants walk through the dense jungle of Mondulkiri province
Rescued elephants walk through the dense jungle of Mondulkiri province. Three of the endangered species were found dead in the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday. POST STAFF

Elephant deaths lead to probe

The discovery of the remains of three endangered Asian elephants in Mondulkiri’s Phnom Penh Prich Wildlife Sanctuary has prompted conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature to launch an investigation into the animals’ deaths.

Samrang Dy Vichet, director of the Wildlife Sanctuary, told the Post yesterday that villagers spotted the decaying carcasses on Sunday, leading patrol teams and WWF officers to begin their investigation on Monday.

“We have not discovered the cause of death yet, and we’re working to find it out,” Dy Vichet said yesterday, adding that the carcasses were found near one another.

Two of the carcasses were those of older females, while the third appeared to be much younger, he said.

Evidence gleaned from camera surveillance and DNA and water testing suggest between 120 and 170 elephants currently roam the sanctuary.

The WWF yesterday refused to divulge details as its team was still in the jungle.

“Our officers are still at the scene; we need to [investigate] this case very carefully and very seriously. This can be a very sensitive issue,” said Tep Asnarith, director of communications for WWF in Cambodia, adding the organisation would be releasing an official press release today.

While the cause of death has yet to be confirmed, Nick Marx, wildlife rescue director at the NGO Wildlife Alliance, reasoned that if the bodies were found near one another and all were female, their cause of death was likely mired in foul play.

“An educated guess is if they have been dead for several weeks and found in close proximity to one another, you can deduce they did not die of natural causes nor were they killed for ivory,” Marx said yesterday, explaining that female Asian elephants don’t have tusks like their male counterparts.

In contrast, male and female African elephants both have tusks, which remain prized by poachers supplying a still-voracious demand for ivory worldwide.

Jack Highwood, head of the Mondulkiri-based NGO Elephants Livelihood Initiative Environment, highlighted the Kindgom’s dwindling elephant population, emphasising the species’ importance to Cambodian history at large.

“Cambodia’s elephants are an incredibly rare and finite resource, we only have a small number left and now is the time protect them, not hunt them,” Highwood said, noting the national population was less than 300.

“A loss of any of these animals is a tragedy for all involved in conservation efforts,” Highwood said.

Asian elephants historically found throughout the continent are now extinct in West Asia, Java and most of China, clinging to survival in only 13 Asian countries, according to WWF data.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Third Makro outlet planned for capital’s Chroy Changvar

    Makro (Cambodia) Co Ltd is set to invest $12.7 million in its third Cambodian outlet, this time in northeast Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district, an area dotted with high-end residential developments, as shopping behaviours continue to evolve in tandem with economic growth. The Cambodian Investment