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DNA tests for two more Phuket baby elephants

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DNA tests for two more Phuket baby elephants | Thaiger

PHUKET: Officers raided two locations last week suspected of housing baby elephants illegally snatched from the wild and conducted DNA tests on the two animals to determine their parentage.

Officers suspect that the two elephants are the offspring of a wild elephant in Kaeng Krachan National Park.

Both elephants had microchips in their ears and the necessary registration and transfer forms, but officers are suspicious because the documents were issued by the Muang Chaiyaphum District Office, which is suspected of issuing fraudulent papers, explained Col Watcharin Phusit from the Regional Natural Resources and Environment Crime Suppression Division.

“The DNA will be sent to Kaeng Krachan to be matched with DNA in herds there,” Col Watcharin told the Phuket Gazette.

The search last week comes in the wake of allegations of an elephant trafficking network operating on Phuket and after baby elephants were found to be missing from Kaeng Krachan National Park.

“We launched a nationwide investigation,” said Col Watcharin.

“Then at the Muang Chaiyaphum District Office we found registration papers for two baby elephants out of the 61 documents on file,” explained

“A Phang Nga man purchased both of the elephants for about 500,000 baht from Tabsakae District of Prachuap Khiri Khan and brought them down to Phuket,” Col Watcharin said.

One of the two elephants tracked down last week was at an elephant camp on Big Buddha hill, an area that took heat during a spate of baby elephant raids and subsequent DNA testing last year (story here).

Police suspect the two-year-old elephant housed at the camp is illegally owned.

“It did have a microchip embedded in its left ear, but its registration papers were from Muang Chaiyaphum District Office, so we took a blood sample and will look for a DNA match,” Col Watcharin said.

Also at the site police found and seized nine blank elephant registration documents and several microchips believed to be illegal.

The second elephant under investigation was found at the private home of Tassapol Laokom,54, in Sri Sunthon.

“Mr Tassapol had the registration documents for “Pimai”, and the elephant did have a microchip embedded in its ear. However, the registration documents were also issued by Muang Chaiyaphum District Office,” said Col Watcharin.

“I paid 800,000 baht for the elephant in Patong in 2011. I bought it because it had registration documents that made me believe it was legal,” Mr Tassapol told officers.

If the registration documents were illegally issued by Muang Chaiyaphum District Office, Col Watcharin confirmed that his office would take legal action by cancelling all fraudulent documents, seizing associated elephants, and transferring them to the national park.

The investigation last week follows the denial by Phuket’s head Livestock officer that tourism is the driving force behind an elephant-trafficking network supplying the animals for jungle tours.

Phuket Provincial Livestock Chief Weerasit Phutthipairote issued his denial after two other elephant raids – one on Big Buddha hill and one in Phang Nga, last week (story here).

The investigation into illegal elephants in Phuket, Phang Nga, and Krabi was ordered by the Central Investigation Bureau, explained Maj Gen Sriwara Rangsitprahmkul, who led the raid along with Col Watcharin.

Maj Gen Sriwara said that elephant-trafficking in Phuket had “become critical.”

This was denied, however, by Phuket Provincial Livestock Chief Weerasit Phutthipairote, who joined the raids.

“I believe the elephants in Phuket are not the product of an illegal-trading network, because the companies in Phuket use them for trekking tours and performances,” he explained.

“However, I cannot comment any further on the possibility of an illegal-elephant trading network in Phuket [serving other purposes],” he added.

During the raid on last Tuesday on Big Buddha hill, the investigation team identified 10 elephants they believe may have been illegally seized from the wild.

Officers seized one elephant identification microchip and nine elephant registration documents, which Gen Sriwara said would be handed over to the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office.

Chief Weerasit explained that that his office would establish whether or not the microchip and registration documents were forgeries.

The camp, which police refused to name, was targeted because it has a record of exchanging elephants with one of the camps raided in Phang Nga, explained Chief Weerasit.

— Kritsada Muenhawong

 

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