By Thanyarat Doksone
A new taste for eating elephant meat – everything from trunks to sex organs – has emerged in Thailand and could pose a new threat to the survival of the species.
Wildlife officials told The Associated Press that they were alerted to the practice after finding two elephants slaughtered last month in a national park in western Thailand.
"The poachers took away the elephants' sex organs and trunks ... for human consumption," Damrong Phidet, director-general of Thailand's wildlife agency, said in a telephone interview. Some meat was to be consumed without cooking, like "elephant sashimi," he said.
Poachers typically just remove tusks, which are most commonly found on Asian male elephants and fetch thousands of dollars on the black market. A market for elephant meat, however, could lead to killing of the wider elephant population, Damrong said.
"If you keep hunting elephants for this, then they'll become extinct," he said.
Consuming elephant meat is not common in Thailand, but some Asian cultures believe consuming animals' reproductive organs can boost sexual prowess.
Damrong said the elephant meat was ordered by restaurants in Phuket, a popular travel destination in the country's south. It wasn't clear if the diners were foreigners.
The accusation drew a quick rebuttal from Phuket Governor Tri Akradecha, who told Thai media that he had never heard of such restaurants but ordered officials to look into the matter. More....