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Thai elephant killed, mutilated 'for restaurants'
by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Jan 5, 2012

Thai wildlife officials on Thursday said body parts from a dead wild elephant found without its tusks, tail and penis were likely destined for restaurants in tourist areas.

The creature, which was discovered in Kaeng Krachan National Park near the Myanmar border in central Thailand on Monday, is believed to have died at the hands of a local gang of poachers.

"They cut its tusks, trunk, sexual organ and tail. Those parts must be sold to the middleman and will be sent to restaurants in the main tourist spots like Phuket, Surat Thani and Hua Hin," park head Chaiwat Limlikhitaksorn told AFP.

"There is a team of elephant hunters in this area. They are stateless people who live along Thai-Myanmar border," he added.

The wildlife department has found four elephant carcasses killed by poachers in the past three years.

Chaiwat blamed ineffective laws for the increase in the crime and putting more than 250 wild elephants and the officers in danger.

Thailand is known as a global hub for the illegal ivory trade, with a dramatic rise in seizures of tusks in recent years as the decimation of the kingdom's elephants has seen poachers turn to Africa for their plunder.

The country has an ivory sculpting tradition dating back to the late 19th century when an estimated 100,000 elephants roamed the kingdom.

Since then most have been lost to poachers and the clearing of their forest habitat, and now just a few thousand remain, many working in the tourism industry.

Benefiting from its location, Thailand exports much of the ivory to China -- where it is traditionally used in medicinal powders -- and Japan.

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