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Elusive Wild Elephants Captured on Film in Cambodia
A still from the unique video, which shows the shy beast placidly munching on greenery.
Credit: Allan Michaud.

Wild Asian elephants have been captured on film in Cambodia, a country where the shy giants are rarely seen, an international conservation organization announced yesterday (Dec. 21).

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has just released what may be the first high-quality professional footage of wild Asian elephants ever taken in the south Asian country. Decades of civil war and instability in the latter part of the 20th century made Asiaâ??s largest land mammal shy and difficult to observe directly.

Wildlife photographer Allan Michaud shot footage of the shy beasts on July 24 in the newly established Seima Protection Forest, a 1,100-square-mile (2,850-square kilometer) protected area along Cambodia's eastern border with Vietnam.

"It does seem surprising that such a large animal is actually quite elusive, but they usually avoid humans, said Edward Pollard of WCS's Cambodia Program. "This new footage is a great visual confirmation that Seima is vitally important for biodiversity, as well as the protection of forest carbon."

The footage captures images of a male Asian elephant casually feeding on grass on the margin of a road that runs through Seima Protection Forest, which contains a significant percentage of Cambodia's elephant population.

In 2006, surveys that collected DNA from elephant dung revealed a population of approximately 116 animals within the protected area but not a single elephant was seen during the study.

Most of the images of wild elephants from the region come from camera traps. The film represents only the third elephant sighting along the Seima road in the past five years.

Researchers have noted that along with the recent elephant sighting, other species observed along the road include gaur (an Asian species of wild cattle), a monkey species known as a black-shanked douc, four other species of primate, and green peafowl, indicating that wildlife are adapting to the road.