Taskforce finds irregularities in documents of ‘domesticated’ elephants (Thailand)


The Nation 

Date Published

The National Parks Department task force has revealed there are irregularities in the documented origins of two domesticated elephants it seized from an animal show in Hua Hin.

The development follows the latest DNA cross-checks with the state elephant DNA bank.

The department inisisted the checks were conducted based on scientific procedures amid arguement raised by elephant owners.

The taskforce, known as “Phaya Suea” (“Tiger King”), inspected the animal show, Hua Hin Tique, in Prachuap Khiri Khan and found irregularities in the identification documents of two domesticated male elephants, TG and Koh Phaya Petch.

The taskforce confiscated the two elephants and confined them at the zoo pending a further investigation.

In September, a further check of the elephants’ ID documents found that they were re-registered in Kanchanaburi’s Sai Yok district on June 30 without authorities being formed. Corrections had also been made to the elephants’ markings in the documents, according to the taskforce.

Phaya Suea went back to the animal show in early December and learned the elephants had been relocated to the Royal Kraal in Ayutthaya province without informing it. The Prachuap Khiri Khan provincial livestock office was informed instead.

The taskforce met with the kraal’s owners to negotiate a settlement for the problem, and it decided to organise as fresh round of DNA checks and verification using the elephant DNA gene bank.

Chaiwat Limlikhit-aksorn, Phaya Suea’s chief, said that based on the fresh round of DNA checks, conducted between September and December, it was confirmed that TG was the same elephant taken from the animal show to the kraal.

To check whether it was the offspring of domesticated elephants, the taskforce cross-checked its DNA with that of its “mother’, Namwan, and DNA collected from the elephant DNA bank.

 Chaiwat said the result of the cross-check with the gene bank showed the animals were not related, leading the taskforce to suspect that there were irregularities in TG and the female elephant’s origins.

When it checked TG’s DNA with the DNA of his “father”, Nga Thong, it also showed that they were not related.

For the other male elephant Koh Phaya Petch, Chaiwat said the DNA checks confirmed that it was the elephant relocated from the animal show to the kraal.

However, he said the DNA cross-check with the gene back showed it was a different Koh Phaya Petch, prompting the team to suspect irregularities in the documenting of the elephant’s origins and its registration. It suspected that there were two elephants registered under the same name and papers.

Chaiwat said when Koh Phaya Petch’s DNA was compared with his “father”, Wang, it was found they were not related although the animal was a genetic match with its documented mother, Pooky.

“We have learned of some irregularities in the DNA results and agreed to proceed further with legal proceedings,” Chaiwat said.

He said the taskforce would examine all related documents and interview witnesses in connection with the DNA gene bank. It would also extend its check into the ID documents of Namwan and Pooky.

TG, Koh Phaya Petch and Namwan will be seized pending further investigations and legal proceedings, he said.

“We have been working without any bias, but followed up what was exposed last year,” he said.

The taskforce has expanded it investigation into irregular elephant registrations and the verification of domesticated elephants in response to the possible smuggling of illegal wild elephants out of the country’s prime pristine forests.

Early this year, it uncovered a graveyard for dead animals in a temple near another elephant show venue, leading to fresh suspicions wild elephants were registered under the names of dead elephants.