By Chaiwat Satyaem, Apinya Wipatayotin
An elephant found beheaded near a reservoir in Kaeng Krachan district was pregnant and was not killed for its tusks, officials said yesterday.
The autopsy report rejected an initial assumption that the beast had been slaughtered for its ivory, as female Asian elephants do not have tusks.
An inspection of the elephant's womb found the carcass of a calf. Its gender and age were not confirmed, however, and are pending further DNA tests, Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said.
The dead elephant was spotted on Tuesday by villagers as they were fishing at Ban Krarang reservoir.
Experts who inspected its body found two .22 calibre magnum bullets in its stomach and head, and seven shotgun shells and one of buckshot nearby.
The reason for the killing is not clear, Mr Theerapat said.
Manophat Huamuangkaew, the head of the parks department, said yesterday he would set up a panel to quiz Kaeng Krachan National Park chief Chaiwat Limlikit-aksorn about whether he had been remiss in his duty to protect the wild elephants there.
"Society is going to raise questions about several elephant deaths in the national park. We must provide the public with the facts," he said.
He said the elephant might have been killed by villagers unhappy at it eating their crops, or the killing might have been a deliberate attempt to undermine national park officials.
On March 8, the carcass of a female elephant, aged about 7-10 years old, was also found near the reservoir.
Mr Chaiwat said yesterday there are about 250 wild elephants left in the park. The population has not increased for several years, which can be attributed to a lack of staff and funds needed to protect the animals, he said. Just 80 officers oversee the nearly 2-million-rai Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Meanwhile, Damrong Pidech, former department chief, said he is confident the elephant killings are intended to discredit Mr Chaiwat, who has been in conflict with local police, Karen groups living in the park and other figures following his efforts to prevent poaching.