It's not uncommon for adult elephants to be targeted for their ivory and tail parts, explains Douglas Hendrie, technical adviser for Vietnam's NGO Education for Nature (ENV) and head of its Wildlife Crime and Investigations team. However, Hendrie told The Dodo this is the first time he has heard of a baby elephant getting his feet butchered. His organization, he says, is investigating the baby elephant's death.
Besides a small number of wild elephants in Vietnam, there are also an estimated 40 captive elephants, who are mostly used in tourism and treated abysmally. Just this month, an elephant reportedly dropped dead from being overworked while giving rides to tourists. Another captive, tourism-based elephant died in January - also from a cocktail of exhaustion and starvation.
Hendrie says saving Vietnam's wild elephants rests on the shoulders of the nation's Forest Protection Department. "But, given the decline of many species native to parks and protected areas in Vietnam, the problems that elephants face are not endemic to elephants alone," he says. "Rhinos are gone. Tigers down to a few animals, at best."