Dead elephant was pregnant

Veterinarians conducting an autopsy on the carcass of a dead female elephant found in Kaeng Krachan National Park on Monday were shocked to discover a calf – almost fully grown – inside her womb, and confirmed she was killed by humans.

Authorities originally thought this was a male elephant killed for its ivory, but were surprised to find Wednesday it was a pregnant cow, possibly killed by local farmers. (Photo by Chaiwat Satyaem)

Originally, officials said the elephant was a male, and probably killed for its tusks. Female Asian elephants have no tusks, however, making it more likely the cow was killed by farmers.

Authorities said after an autopsy performed Wednesday at the killing site that they believed the unborn elephant calf was female, but a DNA-based test would be needed to confirm this.

Veterinarians also could not determine the age of the calf, but it appeared to be in the very final stage of birth because it had all organ systems in place including hair s on its body, Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, the park chief, said.

Elephants are carried in their mother's womb for 20-22 months - the longest gestation period of any land animal.

Forensic police found a bullet believed to be from a .22-magnum rifle embedded underneath the mother elephant’s belly and another one in her skull. That weapon is common in the region around the park.

Seven tiny number-9 shotgun pellets also were removed, from a type of shell more commonly used to kill small birds, and unlikely even to hurt a large elephant unless it hit a vital place like an eye.

The elephant appeared to have been dead for at least three weeks. It was found near a water reservoir.

Mr Chaiwat on Tuesday told reporters the elephant was male and he believed the elephant was killed by poachers for its ivory.

Manopat Huamuangkaew, chief of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said on Wednesday he believed it was more likely the elephant was killed by local farmers whose plantations were encroached by the animal.

He believed the pachyderm was from the same herd as one that was shot dead last month.

Apart from a police investigation, the department has set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the matter, Mr Manopat added.

Related search: Kaeng Krachan National Park, elephant, tusks, poachers, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation

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Writer: Chaiwat Satyaem
Position: Reporter