New risk to Thai elephants: Eating them

2012-01-27 07:29

Bangkok - Thailand's revered national symbol, the elephant, may face a new threat of extinction: Being poached not just for their tusks, but for their meat.

Two wild elephants were found slaughtered in December in a national park in western Thailand, alerting authorities to the new practice of consuming elephant meat

"The poachers took away the elephants' sex organs and trunks... for human consumption," said Damrong Phidet, director-general of Thailand's wildlife agency. Some meat was to be consumed without cooking, like "elephant sashimi", he said.

Consuming elephant meat is not common in Thailand, but some Asian cultures believe consuming animals' reproductive organs can boost sexual prowess.

Damrong said the elephant meat was ordered by restaurants in Phuket, a popular travel destination in the country's south. It wasn't clear if the diners were foreigners.


Poaching elephants is banned, and trafficking or possessing poached animal parts also is illegal. Elephant tusks are sought in the illegal ivory trade, and baby wild elephants are sometimes poached to be trained for talent shows.

"The situation has come to a crisis point. The longer we allow these cruel acts to happen, the sooner they will become extinct," Damrong said.

The quest for ivory remains the top reason poachers kill elephants in Thailand, other environmentalists say.

Soraida Salwala, the founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant foundation, said a full grown pair of tusks could be sold from one to two million baht ($31 600 to $63 300), while the estimated value of an elephant's penis is more than 30 000 baht ($950).

"There's only a handful of people who like to eat elephant meat, but once there's demand, poachers will find it hard to resist the big money," she cautioned.

Thailand has fewer than 3 000 wild elephants and about 4 000 domesticated elephants, according to the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The pachyderms were a mainstay of the logging industry in the northern and western parts of the country until logging contracts were revoked in the late 1980s.

Domesticated animals today are used mainly for heavy lifting and entertainment.

  • Citizen - 2012-01-27 08:06

    What is with these Far East people, they eat anything that walks or crawls now its their workforce they are chomping!

      neil.vdbijl - 2012-01-27 09:09

      I agree.. Wish they would start eating each other. Would solve a lot of problems!

      christo.stone - 2012-01-27 09:18

      Agreed, Neil...these people think everything is there for them to use and abuse...

  • E=MC2 - 2012-01-27 08:35

    freaking Asians will eat anything! are the running low on dogs & cats or what?

  • Michelle - 2012-01-27 08:50

    First dogs, now elephants? WTF people, that's what rice and veggies,cattle and sheep are for!!!

  • theadahms - 2012-01-27 09:32

    I will never go to Thailand!!!

  • ludlowdj - 2012-01-27 11:03

    As usual the totally uniformed having a lot to say I see. Thailand as with the rest of that area spent 6 months under water and lost hundreds if not thousands of hectares of farmland to saline water intrusion during 2011 (supposedly cause by flood from rain, even when there was no rain) one would expect the average man to do what is necessary to survive including eating elephants or what ever else is available and edible. This will be borne out by the coming extreme rises in pricing on rice and maize soon to hit a store near you. During the floods over that entire area it was estimated that over a million hectares of crops were lost do the maths.

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