In early March, Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn was outraged to learn of another elephant killing in the area he oversees. A female elephant about 15 years old was discovered close to Krarang 3 Reservoir shot in the head and brutally axed, milk still flowing from her breast. Investigators reasoned that the elephant had a baby with her at the time of the killing.
What happened to the calf remains subject to conjecture. Some suspect it was sold into the illegal wildlife trade. Other officials contend that the calf is the same elephant pictured in a widely circulated photograph taken on April 10 that many believe is a rare white elephant. If that were the case, the calf would be a hugely desirable target for poachers.
An extensive manhunt was conducted over rough terrain and two suspects were arrested.
On April 9 a similar, even grislier incident came to light when a female elephant was found in the park with gunshot wounds to her head, leg and womb. When park staff examined the carcass, they found that her breast and her vagina were cut out, and there was a dead, almost full-term calf in her womb. Parts of elephants' reproductive organs are believed to have supernatural value and are used in Buddhist amulets and images.
Mr Chaiwat said poaching has become much more organised in the park than when he first took office five years ago. ''Only in the past few years have we witnessed clear patterns indicating organised activity,'' said Mr Chaiwat. More....