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Thailand police hunt 'elephant electrocutioner'

BANGKOK, Thailand – Thai police are looking for a pineapple farm worker suspected of setting up an electric fence that has killed two wild elephants in the past month, authorities said Tuesday, April 17.

Cops are searching for the man after the second elephant was found dead over the weekend, lying on its side outside a pineapple farm in Chonburi province that edges up against a national park.

The four-ton animal lay around 100 meters away from where a female elephant fell dead last month.

A plantation worker, Samin Jansamut, was charged after the first elephant death with poaching but had since been released on bail, police said.

"The suspect used live wire to make a fence and then connected it to electricity...at night," said Phadet Laithong, a regional park official.

"There were signs of burning on (the second elephant's) trunk and his side, so it's likely that he was electrocuted," he added.

Police are now looking for him again following the second elephant death.

Conservationists estimate Thailand is home to more than 3,000 wild elephants.

But deforestation and habitat loss in recent decades have brought herds in closer contact with villages, igniting conflicts – and sometimes human deaths – when the animals trample on plantations or steal farmers' produce.

Soraida Salwala, the founder of the NGO 'Friends of the Asian Elephant', said she was "devastated" by the Chonburi elephant's apparent electrocution.

"Electrocution should not be carried out against any animals," she told AFP.

"I have called for an emergency fund to compensate to farmers in case their produce is eaten by elephants," she added.

Thailand also hosts Asia's biggest elephant tourism industry, with some 2,000 pachyderms employed to take tourists on rides or perform in circuses.

Animal rights groups have long criticized the lucrative industry as inhumane, with many elephants relegated to lives on the end of a chain. – Rappler.com