Thailand: Bull Elephant in musth dies after falling off cliff

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4th January 2018;

A captive-raised bull Elephant (Elephas maximus) released into wilderness in Lampang province was found dead at the stream near the foot of a hill in Harng Chat district of Lampang province on Thursday morning.

The 37-year-old elephant “Plai Somrak” was freed into the jungle under a programme called “Releasing Elephants Into Nature”.

Plai Somrak was hunted by Doi Phamuang wildlife sanctuary park officials three days ago after it was on musth and turned aggressive ransacking a Mae Pon elephant camp in Harng Chat and attacking the elephants there.

The male Elephant was chased away and officials launched a hunt for it for fear that it might return and harm local people and attack the camp again.

Officials later found it dead at Huey Mae Pon stream with serious bruise on the forehead.

Veterinarian at Thai Elephant Conservation Centre examined the bruise and believed it might skid and fell off the cliff down to the stream.

The fall broke it’s neck, the veterinarian said and added that it would be examined thoroughly again for actual death cause.

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Source: Thai PBS

Thailand: The sad tale of the Tiger
28th January 2017;

The death of a Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) from Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary this month provides a stark illustration as to how our forest “management” has failed abysmally.

Before the death of “HKT-178” – which was caused by shotgun wounds – the seven-year-old Tiger was spotted on Jan 8 by villagers of Lampang’s Mae thot tambon, more than 300 kilometres away from his original habitat in the sanctuary. His ill-fated journey began with the search for food and ended on villagers’ farmland.

Wildlife authorities said they had tracked HKT-178 in the sanctuary, the largest habitat of Tigers, since 2011. Then he was captured on camera the following year in Mae Wong National Park on the northern border of Huai Kha Khaeng. Authorities lost track of him until this month.

The Lampang villagers found him suffering from exhaustion and hiding in a cassava plantation. They tried to save him from his wounds by calling for help from officials at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Unfortunately, HKT-178 was too weak and eventually lost the fight for his life.

The wounds suggested it was not the work of hunters, wildlife authorities said. It was more likely he was shot by a terrified villager out of self-defence.

In fact, the Tiger was the victim of economic development altering his natural habitat. He was not the first, nor the last, creature to die from this change.

Before this, several Elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) were killed when roaming into villagers’ farmland and plantations to get some food.

The Tiger’s fate highlights the importance of natural forest as a habitat for wildlife. The creature might have survived, had he not been lost while seeking his own territory – an instinctive drive of a wild beast – into human habitat.

His fate also highlights the need to nurture natural forest as a home for wildlife creatures. The fact is we have lost a vast area of forest reserve for infrastructure development projects such as dams, roads and highway construction, as well as uncontrolled expansion of human habitats.

Some roads and highways, like those in the Khao Yai area, disrupt the routes used by wild animals, resulting in dangerous human-animal confrontations.

In some areas, roads simply cut the forest into small fragments of land, which makes it difficult for nature to maintain a balance. Shrinking habitats, with dwindling food sources, put wildlife animals in a difficult situation. That’s the reason they end up roaming plantations that are scattered around their degraded habitat.

Besides, we should not forget that Mae Wong National Park in Nakhon Sawan, which serves as the buffer zone for the Huai Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary, a world heritage site, is under threat from a dam project, proposed for decades by the Irrigation Department.

The dam will compromise the value of the park, which is now being nominated for a world heritage site in its own right. That means the home for Tigers will be further disturbed, and may no longer be suitable as a wildlife habitat.

Despite several public protests, the Irrigation Department has adamantly pushed for the controversial project, ignoring other alternatives, such as dams that are less destructive.

Now EIA studies for the Mae Wong project have been completed and are being considered by the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning’s expert committee. It is hoped those experts will treasure the park and keep it, not just for the Tigers’ habitat, but for the sake of balanced development.

Source: Bangkok Post

BURNING BRIGHT NO MORE: Wildlife officials fail to save the life of a wounded Tiger found in a cassava plantation in Lampang.

Thailand: Tiger’s death reflects failure in forest management
By Paritta Wangkiat, 22nd January 2017;

Early this month, villagers in tambon Mae Thot of Thoen district in the northern province of Lampang discovered Tiger footprints and heard roars.

On Jan 8, they found a Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) suffering from exhaustion hiding in a cassava plantation. The villagers contacted officials from the conservation office under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) for assistance.

The Tiger was captured using a tranquilliser gun the next afternoon.

Staff from the DNP initially intended to release the animal back into the forest but changed their mind after discovering shotgun wounds on its haunch and other parts of its body.

The Tiger was sent to Huay Yang Pan Conservation Centre in Chiang Mai’s Hot district to receive medical treatment. The assistance, however, came too late. The Tiger was pronounced dead on Jan 17.

Identified as “HKT-178”, the 180-kilogramme male Tiger was aged around seven years old. It had been tracked by the DNP since 2011.

Saksit Simcharoen, the DNP’s wildlife researcher who tracks Tigers, said HKT-178 was first captured in the middle of 2011 by a camera trap in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary – part of Thailand’s western forest complex which is the largest habitat of Tigers. HKT-178 is the son of another wild Tiger named “Fancy”, which has been previously captured by DNP.

HKT-178 appeared again, alone, in a camera trap picture in Mae Wong National Park on the northern border of Huai Kha Khaeng in December 2011, showing that it had started to separate from its mother and seek its own territory when it grows to adulthood.

The camera recorded its last picture in late 2012, still in Mae Wong. The Tiger was never seen again until the tragic ending at the cassava plantation in Lampang this month.

Mr Saksit said HKT-178 was likely roaming outside Mae Wong National Park situated between Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaengpetch when it disappeared from the DNP’s radar.

“The death of HKT-178 shows the return of a Tiger – a creature that chooses to live in supportive natural habitat,” he said.

According to Mr Saksit and his team’s research of Tigers in Huai Kha Khaeng, male and female Tigers roam 200-300 and 60-70 square kilometres respectively.

Tigers require spacious living areas. However, shrinking forest areas and declining food sources are leading to encounters between Tigers and humans.

The World Wildlife Fund has reported cases of Tigers roaming beyond Huai Kha Kheang and settling in other areas such as Mae Wong and forests in Kanchanaburi.

In another case, a three-year-old male Tiger known as “HKT-206M” was shot dead in Kawkareik village in Maynmar’s Kayin state last year. It appeared in a camera trap photo with its mother in Huai Kha Khaeng in 2015.

Some experts believe that it crossed the border to seek its own territory and ended up exhausted and hungry.

But HKT-178 was fortunate to gain mercy from local villagers.

Officials are trying to find out why HKT-178 was shot. One theory is that it might have roamed to the far edge of forest into the human habitat in search of suitable territory or to escape hunters. Lampang’s Thoen district is around 300 kilometres from the northern border of Huai Kha Kheang.

“We have yet to determine the exact spot where the Tiger was shot, and why it had to travel so far,” said the DNP’s deputy director-general Adisorn Nuchdumrong. “We have yet to establish whether people shot the Tiger on purpose or in self-defence.”

HKT-178 had not been detected for many years so officials could not locate its whereabouts, making it difficult to determine the location where it had been shot and the person or persons who shot it.

Panudet Kerdmali, secretary-general of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, suspects that the Tiger may have been shot by a villager trying to protect livestock because the bullet that killed the Tiger came from a shotgun.

His theory is based on the fact that the gunman fired a number of shallow spherical pellets that damaged the Tiger’s skin. A shotgun is not the weapon of choice for professional hunters who try to ensure the Tiger’s skin is undamaged.

“The latest death reflects a failure in the management of forests and Tiger population in Thailand,” he said.

“Trees remain in the forest but not creatures which serve as the Tigers’ food and which enhance the ecosystem.”

Last year, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment mulled the idea of releasing Tigers from Huai Kha Kheang into Khao Yai National Park to balance the food chain and ecological structure as no Tigers – a hunter at the top of the food chain – have been detected in Khao Yai for over a decade.

But the idea came under criticism as the animals would not survive in the forest as the Tigers’ food sources and habitat are not well managed.

Source: Bangkok Post

Thailand: Injured tiger rescued in Lampang
9th January 2017;

Wildlife officials on Monday rescued a male Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) with a gunshot wound after it was seen roaming a plantation in Thoen district on Monday.

Officials from the Bureau of Conservation Areas Region 12 and Doi Chiangdao Wildlife Research Station in Chiang Mai were called to a cassava plantation on Lampang-Tak Road in tambon Mae Thod at 2.30pm after residents reported sightings of a Tiger in the area and at a creek about 500 metres from the plantation.

The team cordoned off the area and went to a higher ground and discovered the Tiger was hiding in a thick grassy area only 30 metres from the road. The big cat did not move because it was injured. Officials used a tranquiliser gun to capture it and later found the animal was shot in the buttocks and was bleeding.

Bureau chief Chombhum Jomthan described the injured Tiger as fully grown – 1.2 metres high and 160cm long. The Tiger was transported to Doi Chiangdao Wildlife Research Station for treatment, he said.

Source: Bangkok Post

Phlai Udom was hit by bus No. 999 as he was crossing the Lampang-Chiang Mai Road.

Thailand: Bus Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Hitting, Killing Baby Elephant
By Asaree Thaitrakulpanich, 3rd October 2016;

A bus driver was charged with reckless driving Monday after hitting and killing a baby Elephant (Elephas maximus) on the Lampang-Chiang Mai Road in Lampang province.

Local police in the Hang Chat district were alerted to a crash on the Lampang-Chiang Mai road Friday night and arrived to find a tour bus had slammed into an 8-year-old Elephant, killing it.

According to Col. Pisupakorn Noipaksa, the tour bus driver, Narit Chittong, 45, was driving at high speed when he suddenly tried to overtake using the right lane.

The young Elephant, named Phlai Udom, was walking in the right lane, within a barrier put up especially for Elephants to walk behind. At that moment, the Elephant turned left to walk into the forest.

The bus crashed into the calf, who died immediately, said Pisupakorn. Narit’s legs were also immediately broken as a result of the impact, preventing him from applying the the vehicle’s brakes, which slid 70 meters. The Elephant’s body was trapped underneath the front wheels.

Pisupakorn said that Phlai Udom was an Elephant in the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, where the baby pachyderm had lived for four years. The nearby conservation center allowed Elephants to roam around the nearby forested area as part of their Elephant Reintroduction Foundation program to return Elephants to the wild.

According to Pisupakorn, Phlai Udom often walked around the forested area and the road, even visiting local traffic police who were quite fond of him.

“Phlai Udom roams the area regularly. He definitely didn’t break loose,” Pisupakorn said.

The road has many signs telling drivers to yield to Elephants crossing. Local road officials were aware that Phlai Udom was walking around that night, and held up many signals and flashlights telling cars to be vigilant.

The Chiang Mai-bound bus had left Bangkok at 10:30am.

One of the passengers, a university student, saw Phlai Udom and yelled for Narit to slow down, but said the driver did not. Narit sustained a number of injuries including two broken legs and cuts to his face caused by the shattering windshield. None of the passengers was injured.

Police said Narit was sober at the time of the incident and will be charged with reckless driving, which amounts to a fine of 400 baht to 1,000 baht. Narit will also have to compensate the Thailand Elephant Conservation Center.

“Drivers, please heed road officials’ signals to slow down for Elephants crossing. I pity Phlai Udom so much,” Pisupakorn said.

Source: Khaosod English

Thailand: Broken tusk missing after Elephant killed in bus crash
By Aswin Wongnorkaew, 2nd October 2016;

One tusk of a pet bull Elephant (Elephas maximus) killed in a crash with an inter-provincial bus in Hang Chat district is missing, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

The left tusk, about 70cm long and weighing 2kg, broke off after Plai Udom, 8, was killed when the bus rammed into it on late Friday night. Since the crash, the broken tusk has not been found, Pol Lt Col Somboon Yaya, deputy investigation chief at Hang Chat police said.

A team of police is trying to find the missing ivory, said Pol Lt Col Somboon. Police would coordinate with local reporters who had video clips of the incident to find clues about the broken tusk.

The other tusk was found with the carcass of the Elephant, which weighed about 2,000kg.

The Bangkok-Chiang Mai air-conditioned bus, carrying 25 passengers, was travelling from Lampang to Chiang Mai when it hit the pachyderm as it was walking on the road near Khun Tan hill in Hang Chat at around 10pm on Friday.

The jumbo was directly hit and its body was crushed beneath the front wheels. It died on the spot. Bus driver Narit Jittrong was badly hurt and trapped in the driver’s seat, but passengers on board were not injured.

Veterinarians have already conducted an autopsy of the carcass of the Elephant. The remaining tusk and part of the broken tusk were removed and handed over to the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation for ivory registration, said Pol Lt Col Somboon.

Plai Udom was under the care of the foundation, which was about to release it into Doi Phamuang wildlife sanctuary in Hang Chat district. The Elephant was learning to adjust to forest conditions.

Source: Bangkok Post

A male Elephant, 8, is killed after being hit by an interprovincial bus in Hang Chat district, Lampang province, on late Friday night. The bus driver was badly hurt while other passengers were unhurt.
Photo: Aswin Wongkorkaew

Thailand: Elephant killed, driver badly hurt in bus crash
By Aswin Wongnorkaew, 1st October 2016;

A male Elephant (Elephas maximus) was killed and a man badly hurt when an interprovincial bus rammed into it in Hang Chat district late Friday night. All passengers on board the bus were unhurt.

The Bangkok-Chiang Mai air-conditioned bus, carrying 25 passengers, were travelling on Lampang-Chiang Mai route when it hit the pachyderm walking on the road near Khun Tan hill in Hang Chat district at around 10pm on Friday, said police. The bus was operated by state-run Transport Co.

The force of the crash killed the Elephant on the spot. Bus driver Narit Jittrong, 45, was badly injured and trapped in the driver’s seat.

Rescue workers took more than one hour to extricate the driver from the wreckage. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, while other passengers on board were not injured.

Pol Col Virot Saeng-iem, deputy investigation chief at Hang Chat police station, said an investigation found that the Elephant was on the loose from its shelter and was walking on the road during the crash. The bus was going up Khun Tan hill at the time and the driver could not see the Elephant walking in the darkness, causing the bus to crash into the animal.

The Elephant,“Plai Udom”, 8, was under the care of the Elephant Reintroduction Foundation, which was about to release the animal into Doi Phamuang wildlife sanctuary in Hang Chang before the crash. The pachyderm was in the stage of adjusting itself before being returned to the forest.

The jumbo earlier broke loose on Sept 8 this year and was found searching for food at a roadside forest near Khun Tan highway service unit.

Source: Bangkok Post