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Thursday, 7 December, 2000, 10:09 GMT
Hunt for the mammoth is on
Mammoth
Scientists hope to find descendants of the pre-historic animal
By Simon Ingram in Bangkok

The quest for a herd of long haired elephants said to be related to the prehistoric woolly mammoth has begun in the remote forests of northern Thailand.

The expedition includes conservationists and elephant experts, together with a member of Thailand's royal family, Princess Rangsrinopadorn Yukol.

Thai elephant
Some say the animals in question are no hairier than normal elephants
The story has aroused intense media interest in Thailand, mingled with a healthy dose of scepticism.

The extraordinary, some would say fanciful suggestion, that descendents of the long haired pre-historic mammoth are alive and well and living in northern Thailand first surfaced last weekend.

Princess Rangsrinopadorn Yukol, a forestry conservationist and distant relative to the King of Thailand, released video pictures of a small herd of elephants she said she had filmed in 1984 while making an aerial survey of jungle near the city of Chiang Mai.

Hairy find

The rather hazy images since screened on local television provided less than conclusive evidence that these were any other than ordinary members of Thailand's wild elephant population which today numbers less than two thousand.

But the Princess says she could clearly see the animals had unusually long hair prompting her to dub them Thai mammoths.

It's not entirely clear why the Princess has waited until now to reveal her discovery and inevitably questions are being asked.

One leading elephant expert, Dr Preecha Puangkam, said bluntly the tale was impossible.

He said the herd in question had been known about for years living in a small protected forest sanctuary.

They're no hairier than normal elephants, he told the BBC.

The scepticism has not deterred the sizeable expedition, including the Princess from setting off in pursuit of the mysterious pachyderms.

Their findings will be awaited with keen interest.

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21 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Mammoth comes in from the cold
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