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Thai elephant meat believed to fuel jungle killings

AP: Underground elephant cuisine behind spate of pachyderm deaths
Thailand elephant 2012Enlarge
Elephants stand in low-lying floodwater as they eat grass on the side of a street in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya on October 12, 2011. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images)

Is a "taste for eating elephant meat" among diners on Thailand's Phuket island behind a recent spate of pachyderm killings?

That's the conclusion the Associated Press has drawn in a new report. A mysterious string of elephant deaths along the Thai-Burma border, according to the wire service, is connected to underground elephant cuisine restaurants.

This theory was first floated several weeks ago -- our blog post on the phenomenon is here -- and at least one wildlife expert finds the claim to be dubious.

Edwin Wiek of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, in an op-ed to Bangkok's The Nation newspaper, contends that rumors of elephant meat eateries can't be proven and that "it seems like a deliberately made-up claim ... the real reason for the killing of these elephants could be explained in a much easier way."

His explanation? A dearth of baby elephants born in captivity has increased demand and shifted procurement of pachyderm calves back to the jungle.

And, apparently, poachers often kill a lot of adult elephants in pursuit of a baby elephant.

"Mothers are being shot and even their nannies and sub-adult males ... trying to protect the calves. Poachers, who have been interviewed, say it is common to kill up to three elephants to take one baby from the forest"

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/thai-elephant-meat

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