WWF Confirms Slaughter of Wild Elephants in Mondolkiri

Two of three wild elephants found dead inside Mondolkiri province’s Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday were slaughtered by poachers, environmental group WWF said Wednesday, calling on the government to launch an investigation to find those responsible.

Villagers who were inside the sanctuary searching for a resin tree to tap reportedly stumbled across the bodies of three elephants on Sunday—two mature adults, and one juvenile—all within a few meters of each other in part of the forest called Krang Chilork.

“Evidence suggests the elephants were slaughtered by well-organized poachers,” WWF said in a statement, adding that the cause of death of the third elephant, a female calf, was not yet known.

“WWF calls on the government to undertake an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the killing of the elephants, and urgently boost enforcement ef­forts inside protected areas.”

Confirming that female Asian elephants do not have ivory tusks, WWF officials declined to discuss why the elephants were slaughtered.

Jack Highwood, a program manager at the nearby Elephant Valley Program in Sen Monorom City, Mondolkiri, offered some insight into why the elephants may have been killed.

“There is cross border, multinational trade in parts of elephants and other animals that some people believe have medicinal properties,” Mr. Highwood said. “There is a strong demand in Vietnam, China and other Asian countries and it poses a great risk to the conservation of elephants in Cambodia and around the world,” he said.

“And it’s not just international. People here in Cambodia eat the meat as well. Poachers could go out and shoot an elephant and days later the meat could be for sale at markets in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kompong Cham,” he said, adding that only about 250 elephants remained in the wild in Cambodia.

Micah Ingalls, WWF-Cambodia’s acting country director, said that the elephant slaughter is a major setback for conservation efforts in Cambodia.

“Illegal activities and wildlife poaching are eroding decades of investment by the Cambodian government and WWF in conservation and protected areas management,” he said. “Criminal activity in Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary must be shut down or we risk losing the great wilderness of the Eastern Plains landscape.”

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