A “new taste” for elephant meat is posing a new threat to the animals in Thailand according to a report from the Associated Press. Last month, wildlife officials say they found the remains of two elephants in a national park in western Thailand; Damrong Phidet, director-general of Thailand’s wildlife agency, said that the animals’ trunks and sex organs had been removed and that the meat would be consumed as “elephant sashimi.”
Thailand’s National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department says that the country has about 4,000 domesticated elephants and fewer than 3,000 in the wild. Poachers are mostly after the elephants’ tusks, which can fetch from 1 million to 2 million baht ($31,600 to $63,300); baby elephants have also been captured to perform in shows. The price for an elephant’s penis is about 30,000 baht ($950). While demand for elephant meat is currently low, if interest increases, poachers will be quick to respond as Soraida Salwala, the founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant foundation, says.
Damong reported that elephant meat was ordered by restaurants in Phuket, a city in Thailand’s south that is popular with tourists, though it is not known if those wishing to dine on it are foreigners.
Phuket Governor Tri Akradecha quickly rebutted claims of elephant meat on the menus of restaurants and said that he “had never heard” of such, though he did also say that he would assign officials to investigate. Indeed, the Thai media have also denied that elephants are being eaten and emphasized that any such claims are unfounded. The Phuketwan has accused the international media of “defaming Phuket.”
Hopefully the reports that elephants are being killed in Thailand to be eaten are indeed unfounded. But the allegations do further attest to the precariousness of elephants’ existence in Thailand and around the world, due to black market demand for their tusks. The Associated Press‘s story is a reminder of the dangers facing their survival and of the continuing need to proceed with efforts to protect them and their environment.
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Photo by rett Marlow Melbourne Australia