PM orders speedy elephant death probe

14 Mar

Yingluck wants harsher wildlife crime penalties

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has told police and wildlife authorities to speed up an investigation into elephant poaching in Kaeng Krachan National Park in Phetchaburi province.

This screen grab from Channel 9 MCOT shows wildlife rangers trying to help an elephant which was wounded in the same incident where the mother elephant was killed.

The premier also proposed amending wildlife laws to increase penalties for poachers and traffickers after a female elephant, aged 7-10 years, was found dead near a creek in the park last Friday.

The elephant sustained several wounds, including four suspected bullet holes. Wildlife officials suspect poachers took away the elephant’s calf.

The incident took place as Thailand was hosting an international conference on wildlife protection attended by 2,000 delegates from 170 countries. The 16th meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora began in Bangkok on March 3 and ended Thursday.

During a trip to Phetchaburi to inspect water development projects, Ms Yingluck said: “I have instructed authorities to speed up investigation into the case and bring the culprits to justice as soon as possible to prevent them from committing more crimes.”

She said penalties for wildlife crime are too lenient and she would like laws to be amended to make them harsher. However, as a legal amendment would take time, she said officers should strictly enforce existing wildlife laws in the meantime.

She said the government is working on overhauling its domestic elephant identification system to prevent illegal traders from slipping ivory from wild elephants in with ivory gathered from domestic animals.

Kaeng Krachan chief Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn said authorities have sealed off areas around the park where they believed suspected poachers are hiding.

Checkpoints have been set up on roads linking Phetchaburi with Ratchaburi province to prevent the suspects from smuggling the dead elephant’s calf out of the country, he said.

Mr Chaiwat said the authorities are close to nabbing the suspects.

Meanwhile, wildlife officials are still tracking down a herd of five wild elephants, including a calf, which were wandering around the area where the mother elephant was found dead.

Officials will collect dung from the young elephant for DNA testing to verify if it is the calf of the dead female.

Lao authorities held a meeting Thursday with Thai wildlife officials in Nakhon Phanom province to work out a plan to steer a group of stray wild elephants back to Laos.

Four to five elephants crossed the Mekong River from Laos over to the Thai side of the border on Monday.

The elephants remain in the forest near Ban Nong Thao in Tha Uthen district. Officials have been deployed to the area to prevent villagers from harming them.

Khamphan Nanthavong, director-general of Laos’ Forestry Department, said the elephants are believed to be from Phu Ngu forest in Bolikhamxay province.

He thanked the Thai authorities for taking care of the elephants and asked them to help guide the animals back to Laos.

He denied earlier reports the elephants fled hunters in Laos, saying the country had strict laws against wildlife poaching.

 

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