By Sek Odom
An adolescent elephant was killed and stripped of its ivory inside Mondolkiri province’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, according to environmental officials, who discovered the endangered animal on Friday.
The male Asian elephant, estimated to be about 10 years old, was discovered with at least one bullet wound in its head and both of its tusks removed.
Two adult elephants and one infant were found slaughtered by poachers in the same area in October last year.
Chhit Sophal, director of the provincial environment department, said the animal was likely killed three or four days earlier, and that a lack of vigilance by Environment Ministry officials in charge of the supposedly protected area was to blame.
“If the director of Phnom Prich works on this case, there will be no solution, and I will have to go there directly with my own officials to do an investigation,” Mr. Sophal said, referring to the sanctuary’s director, Samrang Dyvichet.
Mr. Sophal cited the ongoing poaching of gaur and trade in endangered pangolin as the other failures of authorities overseeing the sanctuary. He said that while it was clear that the elephant had died at the hands of a hunter, he would return to Mondolkiri to conduct an autopsy.
“We will ask the WWF [World Wide Fund for Nature\ for permission to bury the dead elephant,” he added.
Mr. Dyvichet confirmed his subordinates were called to inspect the elephant corpse by a group of ethnic Bunong collecting vines inside the 225,000-hectare sanctuary.
Mr. Dyvichet also defended the competence of his office, saying that it was impossible to patrol the entire sanctuary for poachers.
“We can’t even keep an eye on all the animals in our district, even though our officials patrol often, so how can we patrol the entire forest?” he said. “We will ask the WWF to put a camera [trap\ in that area; then it will be easy to arrest any hunters,” he said.
Mr. Dyvichet said between 120 and 170 elephants remained in the protected area.