A story carried by the international media that elephant meat has become a culinary delicacy in Thailand and that the new taste is posing a threat to the survival of the species has been denied by the Thai media.
According to the AP story, the people of Thailand have discovered a new taste for all parts of the elephant, from trunks to sex organs. AP reported that wildlife officials say the new trend first came to their attention when last month, they found two elephants slaughtered in a national park in western Thailand. According to Damrong Phidet, director-general of Thailand's wildlife agency: "The poachers took away the elephants' sex organs and trunks...for human consumption."
The report said that before the emergence of the alleged new trend, poachers usually removed the animal's tusk, mostly from Asian male elephants. Tusks fetch thousands of dollars on the black market.
The story went on to say that wildlife officials are worried that if the market for elephant meat expands it could lead to killing of elephants on a larger scale. Phidet said: "If you keep hunting elephants for [meat], then they'll become extinct."
The AP story, however, admits that elephant meat is not a popular food item in Thailand, but says that wildlife officials expressed fears that the widespread belief that consuming animal's reproductive organs boosts sexual prowess could be leading to a new trend of increasing demand for elephant sex organs for food. Phidet alleged that elephant meat is now being ordered by restaurants in Phuket, but the Governor of Phuket Tri Akradecha, told reporters he was not aware of it and ordered officials to investigate the allegation. Phuketwan reports the investigation showed the allegation was not true.
The ivory trade in Thailand
Killing of elephants in Thailand is illegal but the ivory black market is booming. According to AP, Soraida Salwala, founder of Friends of the Asian Elephant foundation, said a full grown pair of tusks could fetch 1 million to 2 million baht ($31,600 to $63,300). She also estimated the market value of elephant penis at more than 30,000 baht ($950). Salwala said: "There's only a handful of people who like to eat elephant meat, but once there's demand, poachers will find it hard to resist the big money."
Damrong warned,"The situation has come to a crisis point. The longer we allow these cruel acts to happen, the sooner they will become extinct."
According to AP, Thailand's National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation says the country has fewer than 3,000 elephants in the wild and about 4,000 domesticated.
Thai media deny Thailand is eating its elephants to extinction
The Thai Phuketwan has denied the allegation in the international media that "a new taste for elephant meat" in Thailand is posing threat to Thai elephants, saying their is no evidence to support the claim. The Phuketwan accused the international media of "defaming Phuket." It derisively described the international media as "non-skeptical," saying lack of evidence will not stop "the world's follow-the-herd media, or follow-the-herd readers."
Phuketwan reports that the AP report originated from a story carried by two newspapers in Thailand that a Thai brother and sister, who run a law consulting firm in Phuket, were poaching elephants for table meat. Two Thai newspapers alleged that Prasit Wathanpumchoo and his sister Jaruwan, were involved in the poaching of national park elephants for table meat. Phuketwan reports that the two have declared their innocence after accusations against them. Prasit, according to Phuketwan, said he and his sister were shocked when they were named in the two publications. Prasit, 41, said: ''I have no connection to restaurants and no connection of any kind with restaurants." Prasit said he went to the police immediately the story broke "to make sure I am above suspicion."
According to Prasit, police officers investigating cases of elephant deaths at the national park have not found evidence against him. Phuket Governor Tri Akradecha, ordered an investigation of the story and no evidence was found.
Phuketwan expressed regrets that in spite of denials by the brother and sister, and denials by police investigators and the local press that elephant eating is a "growing fad" in Thailand, AP went on to write a story claiming that the people of Thailand are eating Thai elephants to extinction, with the words: ''A new taste for eating elephant meat - everything from trunks to sex organs - has emerged in Thailand and could pose a new threat to the survival of the species.''