Phublished on August 23,2007
Sampran, a fiveyearold bull elephant from Khao Ang Rua Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, found himself with nowhere to go. He was chased away from his herd last year.
However, he discovered the buffer zone of the wildlife sanctuary was paradise - he could feed on the crops grown by villagers there.
But last month, 40 of them signed an open letter to the superintendent of the sanctuary demanding the elephant be removed.
Yoo Senatham, chief of the wildlife sanctuary, is waiting on a decision from the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.
If approved, Sampran will be the first wild elephant to be removed from its homeland.
Sawai Wanghongsa, head of Chachoengsao's wildlife research centre, said a new home for Sampran would be found in the sanctuary - but deep in the jungle, about 10 kilometres from his curČrent home. "Our concern is he might fight with other elephants who occupy the area," Sawai said.
He added he was afraid that Sampran might be hurt further because he was unable to walk well from an injured rear leg. Early this year he stepped on a trap made by the villagers.
"But, if we don't remove him he might be killed one day by the angry villagers," he said.
For Sawai, Sampran's future is a dilemma.
Meanwhile, Mattana Srikrachang, a department biologist, said relocation was a last resort.
"I think it is better to negotiate with the villagers ... as we can't talk to the elephant. However, if relocation is approved it might not be too difficult for Sampran to adjust to a new environment; he is still young," she said.
Relocation will have to wait until the elephant's leg is healed.
The Sampran case is just the tip of the iceberg.
The sanctuary is spread over five provinces in the east of the country. Sawai said conflicts between man and elephant were growing. Herd numbers are increasing by about 10 a year. Currently there are about 217 elephants in the sanctuary.
Sawai said in the past 10 years 17 elephants died outside the jungle. Seven were trapped and shot by humans and three were hit by cars, while the cause of death of the others was unknown.
Elephants coming out of the jungle looking for food killed five people. Two people died in direct attacks and three in vehicle collisions with the beasts.