From: Reuters
Published December 5, 2007 02:02 AM

World's biggest Asian elephant missing in Nepal

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - What is thought to be the world's largest Asian elephant has been missing from a Nepali wildlife reserve for a year and may well be dead, a reserve official said on Wednesday.

Raja Gaj, or king elephant, was estimated to be 11 feet 3 inches tall at the shoulder, some two feet taller than the average Asian elephant. The bull was one of the main tourist attractions at Bardia National Park in southwest Nepal.

"When I saw it last it was lean and thin, and finding it difficult to carry its own weight," Phanindra Kharel, a senior conservationist at the park, said.

Raja Gaj is, or was, more than 70 years old.


"There is very little possibility of finding such an old animal alive."

Kharel said he could not be sure if Raja Gaj had been killed by poachers, an illegal but common activity in the region.

He said he would ask colleagues in India this month if the elephant had wandered over into a nature reserve on the other side of the border.

There are about 250 Asian elephants -- an endangered species -- in the Himalayan nation, about 100 of them are domesticated and used for elephant polo and safaris in national parks.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Jonathan Allen)

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