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Thai Pachyderms Ambush Food Trucks

December 18, 2004

KHAO-ANG RUE-NI, Thailand (AP) _ These pachyderms aren’t just going after peanuts.

Elephants in a wildlife sanctuary in eastern Thailand are using their oversize bodies as road blocks, ambushing vehicles transporting sugar cane, tapioca and fruit, the sanctuary’s chief says.

The estimated 200 elephants in the Khao-Ang Rue-Ni sanctuary turn desperate _ and wily _ in the dry season, when water and food supplies shrink. It’s then that the animals stage their heists, Yuo Senatham said.

Conveniently enough for the elephants, the dry season is also when hundreds of trucks travel through their lands, laden with newly harvested tapioca and sugar cane.

According to Yuo, a herd leader usually emerges from the jungle at dusk to block the road. When a vehicle stops, other elephants move in for the feast.

Signs urging motorists not to feed the elephants don’t seem to be doing the trick.

``It’s like the drivers are bribing the elephants _ otherwise the elephants won’t allow trucks to pass through,″ Yuo said

The elephants, who have never hurt a motorist, sound a general retreat when wildlife officials arrive to scare them away with spotlights.

The sanctuary chief says he can’t prevent the elephants from roaming near the road because the area used to belong to them.

``What we can do is prevent them from getting hurt and hurting people,″ Yuo said.

The Thai army cut the road through the 270,000-acre sanctuary in the 1980s to help ferry supplies to insurgents fighting the Cambodian government, Yuo said.

There are some 3,000 wild elephants in Thailand, according to the Forestry Department.

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