The Yok Don National Park has asked local authorised agencies to conduct an investigation into why two wild elephants died on Aug. 25 in Central Highlands Dak Lak Province 's Ea Sup District.

The elephants - one female and one male with his tusks removed and his trunks cut out - are believed to belong to a herd of 29 wild elephants living in the national park.

Senior Lieutenant Colonel Tran Manh Hieu, deputy head of the district's Police Department, said that the elephants were likely killed.

Hoang Van Xuan, deputy director of the national park, said that the elephants' bodies were still at the spot where they died, awaiting workers from the Vietnam National Museum of Nature, where they would enjoy a second life as specimens.

Because the elephants' corpses did not remain intact, they have little scientific value. Therefore, the museum will wait to take the elephants' skeletons until the bodies are completely decomposed, said the Vietnam News Agency's correspondent in the province.

According to Xuan, if the museum does not use the elephants' dead bodies as specimens, the national park will cremate them.

It is impossible to bury them because the soil at the national park is too hard to dig into, Xuan said.
Tran Van Thanh, temporary director of the national park, said, "illegal elephant hunting is rampant even though forest rangers patrol the area regularly."

"The forest is big, so we need support from local authorised agencies and police to help prevent the illegal hunting of wild elephants," he said.

The national park has only 175 forest rangers to cover more than 115,000 ha.

Huynh Trung Luan, director of the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Centre, told Dan tri online newspaper that the elephant deaths represent a grave problem. The death of the elephants, particularly the unique adult male elephant, seriously threatens the remaining elephant population.

Part of the forest has been used to grow industrial crops, cutting into the wild elephants' habitat, Luan said.

So poachers easily approach and illegally hunt the wild elephants, he said.

To return to elephant conservation activities in Vietnam, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai recently approved a project to conserve elephants in Vietnam by 2020.

The move aims to prevent further reductions of the wild elephant population in Vietnam; minimise conflicts between humans and wild elephants where elephants live; and conserve and develop the domestic elephant population in Dak Lak Province.

Under the project, the habitats of wild elephants will be protected in three provinces: Dak Lak, Dong Nai and Nghe An.

Besides, a plan to put electronic chips in domestic elephants in Dak Lak has been set up to further protect them.

Statistics from the Vietnam Administration of Forest estimate that about 75-130 wild elephants live in Vietnam.

They are mainly found along the borders of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the provinces of Dong Nai, Ha Tinh, Nghe An, Quang Nam, Thanh Hoa, Son La, and the Central Highlands.-VNA