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Suspicious gaur deaths in national park

Tissue samples collected from a number of dead gaurs in Prachuap Khiri Khan's Kui Buri National Park were found to be contaminated with high levels of a nitrate compound and the bacteria Clostridium novyi, as well as the Anaplasma spp pathogen, which leads to the disease anaplasmosis - causing sudden death in animals, according to the National Institute of Animal Health.

The animal-health agency's director Preecha Wongvijarn said his agency had sent a team of veterinarians to collect samples from 19 dead gaurs in Kui Buri National Park to investigate the cause of death.

The team discovered that two samples were contaminated with high levels of the nitrate compound, while other samples showed only low levels of the same compound.

Another two samples were found to be tainted with the bacteria Clostridium novyi and with the Anaplasma spp pathogen, according to laboratory results announced by the state animal-watch agency.

Preecha explained that the nitrate compound could also be found in natural sleeping grass and salt, while the bacterium Clostridium novyi and Ananplasma spp could be detected in soil. He said a combination of the two could result in the sudden death in a gaur.

"We still do not know the root cause which resulted in the deaths of these gaurs. These are just the preliminary results based on the collected samples. So far, we can only deduce what the samples have told us, but we cannot conclude yet that this is the main cause of the large number of gaur deaths," he said at the press conference.

He said the team could not collect further tissue samples to study the effects of the toxins from bacteria on the internal organs of the dead gaurs, as most of the carcasses had already decomposed.

Preecha said his team was now waiting for laboratory test results on soil samples collected from the mineral licks and the samples of sleeping grasses, collected from the stomachs of the dead gaurs.

Meanwhile, Anuphan Ittharatana, director of Pollution Control Department's Waste and Hazardous Substance Bureau, said his agency had also sent a team to collect soil and water samples from the areas where 15 of the dead gaur were discovered to find out if there was any contamination from hazardous chemical substances.

However, the agency had found that the level of hazardous chemical substances collected from the soil sediment did not exceed the levels designated by the National Environmental Board.

Samples of soil collected from a newly dug creek where the carcass of the first dead gaur was discovered, were found to be tainted with high levels of arsenic, although it has since been concluded that this could not have led to the sudden death of the animal. The team also found no cyanide contamination in the water supply.

Another laboratory test on pesticide contamination will not be known for another two weeks, Anuphan said.

Niphon Chotiban, acting director-general of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, said Kui Buri National Park would remain closed until investigations into the suspicious deaths of the gaurs had been concluded. He insisted that a conflict among wildlife protection officials in his agency was not the reason for the deaths.


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