By SUMALEE PHOPAYAK
WITH its meat fetching at least Bt300 per kilogram on the black market, gaurs in the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary are not totally safe.
Wichanon Saengmala, assistant chief of the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, said about 100 fishermen were allowed to settle in a zone near the sanctuary under the condition they did not hunt wild animals in the sanctuary.
“Given that they violated the terms, we may have to ban their settlement in that nearby zone,” he said.
He was referring to the recent seizure of gaur meat after some fishermen allegedly hunted the animals.
At least 246 kilograms of guar meat was discovered inside a police vehicle last Wednesday to the dismay of forest officials.
“When I intercepted his vehicle and asked to search his car, I noticed that he had a gun,” a forest official, who only gave the name Prasert, said.
The two men inside the vehicle were Pol Senior Sgt Major Mongkhon Bunmatun, a 47-year-old traffic policeman at Khon San Police Station, and Preecha Prabphan, 32.
Prasert said he manned a checkpoint last Wednesday morning because he had received a tip-off that suspects were going to transport gaur meat via the route. “I knew it would be a state-owned vehicle but I never imagined that the suspects would use a police vehicle,” he said.
Senior Sgt-Major Mongkhon is said to have a taste for exotic dishes. There is no restaurant serving exotic dishes in Chaiyaphum where the wildlife sanctuary is located. However, in neighbouring Phetchabun there are reportedly restaurants that serve wildlife meat.
Following the arrests of Mongkhon and Preecha, two fishermen turned themselves in to police and confessed they had hunted a gaur. The pair was identified as Sudjai Duangtapa, 55, and Somporn Waranat, 36.
“I noticed a big herd of gaur in November. So I planned to hunt one,” Somporn said.
Forestry officials reported the arrest of Mongkhon and Preecha to the Chaiyaphum governor and several top officials at relevant authorities.
They also shared pictures of the seizure on social media in a bid to show that whatever ties people may have, if caught hunting protected wildlife they face punishment. Gaur generally weigh between 700-800kg.