Baby Elephant Dies During Rescue From Trap in Mondolkiri

A wild baby elephant died in Mondolkiri province early Monday morning after being found in a state of distress with a snare clamped to its leg, its rescuers said.

The 18-month-old Asian elephant bull calf, seen in photographs circulated online with a ring of hide torn off its left front leg, was no taller than the rangers who tried to save it.

An Environment Ministry ranger working inside Mondolkiri’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary was alerted to the elephant’s plight by a local villager on Sunday and immediately began arranging transport for the animal, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.

The ranger was joined by a team of officers and veterinarians from several organizations, who had hoped to nurse the elephant back to health so that it could be moved, it said.

Chhith Sophal, director of the provincial environment department, said the team reached the wounded calf at about 3 p.m.

“When we arrived, the elephant looked very dehydrated. It appeared to have been trapped a long time ago, and it had an ulcer on its leg,” he said.

For two hours, the elephant was able to stand upright, and officers brought water and provided shade, Mr. Sophal said.

But then it fell down unconscious, he said.

A tractor began moving the elephant to the sanctuary’s headquarters at about 6 p.m., but after hours on the road it died at about 1 a.m., Mr. Sophal said.

He said the elephant was thought to have been ensnared about a month prior, caught in an iron trap meant for smaller animals. While such traps are illegal in protected areas, the 292,690-hectare Keo Seima sanctuary is too large for its 16 rangers to patrol properly, he added.

“We admit: The sanctuary is huge,” he said. “That’s why we couldn’t patrol it all.”

The trapping of elephants in the area is rare, Mr. Sophal said, though some have been shot by ivory hunters in recent years.

Olly Griffin, the WCS’s conservation operations technical adviser at the sanctuary, said traps maim and kill indiscriminately.

“Snares are a silent curse killing Cambodian wildlife,” Mr. Griffin said. “They cause slow, painful and unnecessary death to many animals.”

Jemma Bullock, spokeswoman for the Elephant Valley Project in Mondolkiri, said there were thought to be just 400 to 600 wild elephants left in Cambodia, most of them in province’s protected areas—a devastating decline over the past 10 years.

A new survey carried out last year is expected to put a more precise figure on the population count, Ms. Bullock said, adding that she was hopeful that elephant numbers had stabilized in the past few years due to conservation efforts.

(Additional reporting by Michael Dickison)

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