A tissue sample collected from a dead gaur in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Kui Buri National Park was found to be contaminated with the bacterium Clostridium novyi, according to laboratory results announced by the state animal-watch agency.
However, the test result is not sufficient grounds to declare bacterial contamination as the main cause of the recent spate of 18 gaur deaths in the national park, said Tritsadee Chaosuanchareon, director-general of the Livestock Development Department.
After the first gaur died under suspicious circumstances on December 2, the department sent a team to investigate the cause of death and collect tissue samples from the dead gaurs to study in a laboratory.
The latest result showed that tissue collected from dead gaur No 17 was found to be contaminated with Clostridium novyi, a bacterium commonly found in soil and various kinds of plant material.
While this bacterium can generate fatal levels of toxin in the blood streams of gaurs and other animals, Tritsadee said the investigative team could not confirm bacterial contamination as the major cause of death. They need to study other factors, such as the effect of toxin from bacteria on the internal organs of gaurs, including the liver, as well as on other types of tissue.
“We cannot collect fresh tissue to study the effect of toxins from bacteria on the internal organs of the dead gaurs, because most of the gaur carcasses have decomposed,” he said.
However, he said the laboratory results also showed that no viruses or bacteria associated with disease outbreaks had been found in the dead gaurs.
“There is no way to say that the gaurs’ deaths were caused by an outbreak of anthrax or haemorrhagic septicaemia,” he said.
Moreover, no suspicious chemical substances have been found in the samples.
Tritsadee said his department would send the full report on the laboratory results to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
Meanwhile, Samak Donnapee, who heads the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s fact-finding committee investigating the deaths, rejected speculation that the incidents stemmed from a conflict among wildlife-protection officers involving competition for the benefits of the tourism industry in local areas.
“The preliminary results of the investigation show that there is no conflict between the former head of Kui Buri National Park and the former chief of the Kui Buri forest-reserve conservation and recovery project. Moreover, there is no conflict between wildlife protection officers and local villagers,” he said, adding that he believed the animals died as a result of a disease.