O'Yadav district authorities in Ratanakkiri province said on February 1 that some 30 wild elephants had eaten the crops of residents in four villages of Yatung and Bakham communes.
District deputy governor Sim Lin told The Post that the elephants had invaded the residents’ plantations in Khveng, Dor and Sam villages of Yatung commune and Ta Kok Pnong village in BaKham commune. They had eaten more than 1ha of cassava and destroyed hundreds of coconut, mango and jackfruit trees.
“The herds of elephants have been appearing for days. They roam in the dense forest eating new shoots of plants during the daytime and return to eat the villagers’ crops at night,” he said.
He added that the elephants did not seem to be afraid of people as they sometimes appeared near the villages during the daytime. The villagers had tried beating sticks or shaking small wooden rattles and bells and had even lit firecrackers in bamboo tubes to chase them away, but the elephants had barely responded.
“Last year, we advised people to set off firecrackers and hit small wooden rattles to distract them and keep them from destroying huts and crops. But this year they seem to be used to these sounds and are not as surprised as they used to be,” he added.
He called on the villagers and local authorities to stay away from them to avoid possible accidents caused by human-elephant conflict.
“Despite their gentle appearance, they are still animals, and wild animals are more unpredictable than domestic ones. We should be careful not to provoke conflict with them,” Lin said.
Yatung commune police chief Nhep Sodoeun told The Post that the elephants were likely crossing from neighbouring Mondulkiri province’s Koh Nhek district through the dense forest of the O’Leav area and continuing into Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadav district, hence their passing through the villages.
“I believe these elephants are probably domesticated ones which have been released to live in the forest in order to breed, because they are not afraid of people,” he said.
He added that about 50 elephants, including calves, were hiding in the dense forest of the O’Pal area on the border between Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri.
According to the Ministry of Environment, Cambodia currently has between 400 and 600 Asian wild elephants living in Mondulkiri and Ratanakkiri, the Cardamom Mountains and other wildlife sanctuaries.