Doctors amputate elephant tusk allegedly sawed by poachers in Vietnam reserve



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A 20-year-old elephant in Vietnam’s Yok Don National Park had its right tusk amputated on Thursday due to an injury caused by unidentified poachers, the park management said the same day.

The wound on the animal, Thoong Ngan, was caused by poachers who allegedly used a saw to attempt to cut off the tusk to steal it two days earlier, said Do Quang Tung, director of the park, located in Buon Don District of the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.

The amputation was completed in the afternoon after a group of experts agreed that the tusk should be removed to save the animal from a possible dangerous infection, Tung said.

The experts from the park, the Ho Chi Minh City-based Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Netherlands’s Rotterdam Zoo, and the Animal Asia Foundation discussed treatment for the injured elephant.

Veterinary surgeons gave Thoong Ngan, 20 years old, an anesthetic and then cut off its injured tusk, Tung said.

Thoong Ngan is seen after its right tusk was severed on July 16, 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“At 5:30 pm, the cutting was completed and the elephant recovered after the anesthetic’s effect wore off,” Tung added.

Before the operation, the park management had conducted ceremonial rituals according to the customs of the Ede minority people.

Poachers’ attack

Early Tuesday morning, Thoong Ngan, with a chain around its legs, was released to Yok Don National Park to search for food, Y Vi Xien, a mahout who directly manages the elephant, said.

At 8:00 am the same day, Xien found the animal stuck between two large trees by a strange chain, with its right tusk cut at a depth of two-thirds of its width, probably with a saw, he said.

The removed tusk of Thoong Ngan. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Vien assumed that the animal had become stuck on the trunk of one of the trees while it was searching for food, and unidentified poachers managed to drive the animal into the space between that tree and another, Xien said.

The poachers then used another chain to fix the animal between the trees and later used a saw to cut its right tusk, the mahout guessed.

It is believed that the poachers later fled from the scene out of fear when the elephant bellowed in pain, as the saw touched the marrow inside its tusk, Xien said.

Before suffering the incident, Thoong Ngan was used to carry tourists every day, he added.

Thoong Ngan uses its proboscis to touch the wound on its tusk before the ivory was amputated on July 16, 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre

No culprits found

Since 2009, at least six elephants in Dak Lak have been killed for their tusks and other organs, but authorities have yet to identify any culprits, Yok Don National Park director Tung said.

The park now has four elephants, of which only Thoong Ngan and another still have their tusks, which are considered the most beautiful in Vietnam, he said.

The director added that the purported sawing of the tusk is the first such incident to have ever happened in the park.

Police in Buon Don District are looking into the assault.