Two Phuket baby elephants ‘arrested’

  • Published: 12/05/2013 at 02:53 PM
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PHUKET: In an echo of a probe last year into “illegal” elephants in Phuket, officials are investigating the backgrounds of two baby elephants in Phuket that are suspected to have been taken from the wild or smuggled in from a neighbouring country.

The two are described in paperwork that is suspected to have been issued illegally by a government official in Chaiyaphum Province.
Altogether 61 illegal “elephant birth certificates” are believed to have been issued by the official, and dozens of elephants at elephant trekking companies in Phang Nga are already under investigation.
Police from the Natural Resources and Environment Crime Suppression Division Region 6, led by Pol Col Watcharin Poosit, along with police from the Central Investigation Bureau and Royal Forestry Department officials went to two sites today (May 10) where the suspect elephants were being kept.
Unlike legal elephant certificates, the fake ones do not state the name of the baby elephant’s mother.
In Baan Ya in Thalang, they found one three-year-old male elephant called Pimai. Its owner, Thassapol LaoKom, 54, told them, “I bought the elephant from my wife’s brother and we expected the elephant to be taken by a safari company in Chalong but it was cancelled, so now we are taking care of it here”.
The other baby elephant was found at an elephant camp on the road up to the Big Buddha. This baby elephant, Namfon, is female and about six months old.
Her mahout said the owner of the camp lives near Ao Luk in Krabi, but he declined to give the owner’s name and said he did not know where the elephant originally came from.
Col Watcharin explained, “We received information that 61 illegitimate elephant livestock identification certificate had been issued. We have copies of these certificates and our investigations indicated that two of the elephants mentioned are in Phuket.
“We believe the issue of these 61 certificates was illegal, because the certificates seem to have been printed out in advance and then the elephant’s names were written in later.
“Also, none of these 61 certificates has the name of the elephant’s mother. If you have the name of the mother, then it is easy to prove whether the animal was raised domestically or not.
“So we will check each elephant against the certificate first. If the information doesn’t match, then we have cause to suspect that the elephants were obtained illegally.
“For example, if the certificate says that the elephant has certain distinguishing marks, but we can’t find these on the elephant, then that’s obvious.
“We will also check the microchips [implanted under the skin behind the ear].”
Officials checked the chips in the two suspect elephants today and said they believed the chips were not legal ones, because the chip numbers matched numbers entered in two of the suspect certificates.
“It’s not hard to buy microchips from elephant foundations,” he noted, adding, “There’s a gap in the law covering this.”
Blood samples were taken from both the young elephants so that if a claimed mother can be found, the baby elephant’s relationship can be checked.
The certificates held by the officials must also still be checked against documents in the Chaiyaphum office.
If it is found that the DNA does not match, or that the originals and copies of the certificates differ, then the conclusion will be that the two elephants are not legal.
In the meantime, both elephants have been “seized” though this means simply that they must stay where they are and may not be used commercially.