A young male elephant was found dead after getting stuck in a hole on Monday afternoon in Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, according to officials.

Dem Buntoeun, the sanctuary’s director, said the 1-year-old elephant had already been removed, and the corpse was transported to the Ministry of Environment in Phnom Penh for study.

“We felt deep regret after obtaining the report from border military forces at O’Chum area saying that they encountered it dead because it was trapped in a hole surrounded by bamboo bushes,” he said.

At first, he said, they suspected the hole was a trap set by hunters, but upon inspection realised that the elephant had in fact stepped into a termite nest which collapsed, trapping the two hind legs of the pachyderm in a pit about one metre wide and a little over half a metre deep.

Given that the body had not begun to decompose, Bunteoun said, experts estimate that the 200-kilogram elephant likely died on Sunday night or early Monday morning.

Keo Sopheak, the Mondulkiri Environment Department director, said the elephant’s body would be taxidermied and put on display for the young generation to “study and research”.

According to the Wildlife Conservation Society some 250 to 500 globally endangered wild Asian elephants remain in the Kingdom, with no more than 115 individuals in the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

WCS Technical Advisor Tan Setha is quoted in a press release saying “Wild elephants in Cambodia are facing high risk due to habitat loss and snaring".

"To protect this species, we need to safeguard their natural habitat with the participation of all stake-holders, especially local authorities and communities to report information to the relevant authorities and conservation organizations whenever they encounter the elephants ... in bad condition,” he said.