A fresh round of elephant slayings in the Cardamom mountain range has pushed to 41 the known number of killings in the past three years in Cambodia, conservation officials reported.
The figure is more than a tenth of the estimated 400 elephants remaining in Cambodia. The elephant herds that once numbered in the thousands have been devastated in recent years by ivory poachers, meat hunters and settlers who see Asia’s largest land mammal as a threat to crops.
Conservation officials reported eight killings in the past two months in the Cardamom mountain range. Just one elephant was known to have been slaughtered in the remote mountain range in the first half of 2002.
“There’s been one of those periodic slaughters,” said Hunter Weiler, of the CAT Action Treasury, a US-based group that monitors and protects large animals. Weiler said the killings appeared to be unrelated. “It’s random. If people meet an elephant they will kill it.”
At least one of the elephants was slain for its ivory tusks, believed to have weighed about 3 kg, Weiler said. Two cow elephants that were lured to the dying bull by his cries for help were also gunned down, Weiler said, referring to reports filed by hunting monitors working for the CAT Action Treasury.
The poachers responsible for some of the latest killings are believed to live in the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary, Weiler said. The sanctuary has been emptied of large animals and the poachers must leave the area and travel into the Cardamoms to find elephants, he said.
The Asian elephant is an endangered species and is protected by international and Cambodia law. The law has failed in almost all cases to slow the poaching, however.
Just one elephant hunter has been arrested in connection with elephant shootings in the past three years.
The case was later dismissed by the courts, despite evidence that the man was responsible for the slaying of an elephant that had trampled a cassava plantation in Prey Nup district of Sihanoukville.