Wildlife project out to rid parks of elephant traps

Illegal steel traps and snares like these, even if not meant to harm elephants, are doing damage to the wild herds in Thai national parks. (Photos provided)

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation launched a project called "Free Wild Trap Zone" Wednesday to clear harmful hunting devices after five elephants were maimed.

"We have to survey national parks to understand why such devices are planted there," Kanchana Nittaya, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office, said at an event marking Thai Elephant Day.

"When we know more information, we can come up with proper measures and we will find which areas are high risk."

The cabinet agreed on May 26, 1998 to designate March 13 as Thai Elephant Day (Chang Thai Day) to raise awareness about the animal's importance to Thai society.

There are an estimated 3,000 wild elephants in the kingdom.

Under the campaign, officials will survey traps and raise awareness with local villagers. Hunting is already banned in national parks. The survey will take one week to complete.

As elephants have begun wandering into local communities, sparking conflicts with residents, officials fret about their well being.

Some 149 wild traps made of steel with sharp claws were found planted at Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in mid-February.

Located in the lower East, this lush forest complex is known as the largest habitat for wild elephants with some 400 living there.

"Hunters usually place the trap to catch wild animals and elephants are among the victims," Ms Kanchana said.

Since last November at least five elephants have been injured by the "cruel hunting devices," she added.

"This device is highly destructive. It can kill or maim wild animals because the steel claws are designed to tighten and sink deeper under the skin when animals try to escape," she said, adding many animals die from infected wounds.

The department cited the case of a two-month-old calf that lost one of her legs after being freed from such a trap in October 2016.

Vets came to help, but the calf can no longer return to the jungle because she has been abandoned by her herd.

Experts said she could not survive alone in the wilderness due to her young age and other factors.

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