A gaur which became a tourist magnet, selfie star and father of hundreds of hybrid gaur and cow cattle has been found dead of unknown causes, causing sorrow among locals in Chumphon province.
Villagers found the bovine’s bloated carcass in the middle of an oil palm plantation at the Chumphon Agriculture and Technology College at 6pm on Sunday and alerted the Thung Tako police.
Pol Lt Col Pisit Chukhachorn, deputy commander of the Thung Tako police, rushed to the scene to take photos of the dead animal and alerted the Chumphon Livestock Development Office so they could perform a post mortem the next day.
Several villagers in the southern province cried at the sight of the carcass - they had developed an attachment to the gaur for the past five years since it came down from mountainous forests behind the college, feeding it with bananas and even getting it to mate with their cows to produce hybrid calves.
One villager, Sarote Raksue, 45, said he was walking past the plantation when he noticed a strong stench and found the carcass.
When the news spread, a lot of villagers rushed to the spot with teary eyes. They had named the gaur “Ai Tone” or the “Lone” one.
Ai Tone became famous after local villagers said they had got hundreds of calves fathered by it.
The news of a gaur mating successfully with farm cows later spread to other southern provinces, even prompting farmers in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Surat Thani and Ranong to taken their cows for Ai Tone to mate with their animals, too.
Over the past five years, Ai Tone was the only gaur that emerged from the forests to live in Moo 8 village, Tambon Tako, Tako district.
The palm plantation where Ai Tone lived is near Asia highway No 41, so many tourists stopped by to see the animal and even take selfies with it.
Ai Tone’s fame also prompted Chumphon’s new provincial governors to visit and take photos with it. The current governor was the fourth that had visited and posed for photos.
Several foreign TV stations also shot documentaries about the gaur that managed to live harmoniously with villagers.
Since Ai Tone "worked so hard" to mate with farm cows, national park officials visited it regularly to check on its health.