10-day probe set in death of bear dropped by helicopter

10-day probe set in death of bear dropped by helicopter

Photo supplied by the Protected Area Regional Office 1 in Prachin Buri shows the bear rigged and slung from its Bell helicopter.
Photo supplied by the Protected Area Regional Office 1 in Prachin Buri shows the bear rigged and slung from its Bell helicopter.

Wildlife officials expect to take 10 days to finish their probe into the death of an Asian black bear which fell from a helicopter while being transported for release into a jungle, deep in Khao Yai National Park.

"We want the investigation to be conducted in a way to prevent such a thing happening again," Wirat Chatuphon, chief of the Prachin Buri-based Protected Area Regional Office 1.

The bear, which was unconscious and held in a net hung outside the helicopter, fell when the copter lost altitude after flying into an air pocket due to a bad weather while it was over the forest, he said.

An initial investigation found the net detached from a faulty ring.

The accident occurred in the middle of last month.

The bear, weighing 80-90 kilogrammes, had been earlier caught by wildlife officials after it was found to have disturbed villagers living near the park last year.

The officials devised a careful plan to release the bear back into the forest, Mr Wirat said, adding the bear was tagged with a tracking device for study purposes.

Transport of the animal by car would have been more convenient, but in this case a helicopter was used as the bear had to be taken deep into a forest to avoid further confrontations with villagers, he said.

Mr Wirat said he does not want see society rush to point the finger of blame at anybody.

"If everyone keeps looking for people to find fault with, officials will be discouraged and eventually will dare not do any work," he said.

The accident also caused the officials to become upset, he said.

The National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department is planning to release another wild bear back into its natural habitat.

The 80kg bear was captured while it was eating banana stalks in a plantation in a local market in Prachantakham municipality in Prachin Buri.

The bear is being treated at Pa Chong Klam Bon wildlife breeding centre in Sa Kaeo province's Watthana Nakhon district after veterinarians detected parasites in its blood, Mr Wirat said.

Officials will release the bear after the treatment has finished, he said.

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