Poachers in Thailand killed a 50-year-old elephant who appeared in Oliver Stone’s 2004 film Alexander, before crudely hacking off the animal’s giant tusks, according to The Bangkok Post.
The Asian elephant, named Phlai Khlao, was used in scenes from the movie starring Colin Farrell and Angelina Jolie. The animal had also been part of ceremonial performances for Thailand’s royal family.
Phlai Khlao was found dead on Friday morning, apparently poisoned before its tusks were removed.
In a photograph that appeared in the newspaper, monks chanted over the elephant’s colorfully draped body as incense was burned as part of a burial ceremony.
The Post says that police, soldiers and local officials near the ancient capital of Ayutthaya outside Bangkok had already taken one suspect into custody and were searching for others, believed to be “local youths, probably drug addicts,” the newspaper said.
The detained suspect, identified as Naret Wangkalung, 32, is a former mahout, or elephant handler, who was fired from his job because of drug problems, the Post says, quoting law enforcement officials.
As NPR’s Christopher Joyce has reported recently, demand for ivory has spiked in China, sparking an increase in poaching in Africa. Poaching Asian elephants is also a problem, according to the World Wildlife Fund, although most of the illegal ivory appears to come from Africa.