Photo supplied by the Protected Area Regional Office 1 in Prachin Buri shows the bear in the rigging slung below the Bell helicopter – before the pilot dropped it.
The pilot of a helicopter taking an Asian black bear back to the jungle at Khao Yai National Park had unhooked the net and let the animal fall to its death because he feared the load was too heavy and he would crash, according to a report on Wednesday.
Adisorn Nuchdamrong, an inspector of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, said this after questioning the chief of Khao Yai Flight Operation Centre, the news report said.
Mr Adisorn heads the fact-finding committee investigating the incident, which occurred in mid-February.
The black bear, weighing 80-90 kilogrammes, was captured by wildlife officials after it disturbed villagers living near the park. They devised a plan to release it back into the jungle, away from habitation.
Mr Adisorn said the chief of the Khao Yai Flight Operation Centre said he decided to use a helicopter to move the bear back to the wild without seeking prior permission from the national park office, because he believed it was an emergency task.
The flight operation chief said the helicopter pilot made the decision to unhook the net carrying the bear and let it fall to the ground as he was passing by a cliff, because he feared the heavy weight would cause the craft to crash, Mr Adisorn said.
He did not name of the flight operation chief or the pilot.
Mr Adisorn said some of his questions had been left unanswered. One of the questions was how the flight operation chief justified the use of the helicopter, and why the bear’s return to the wild was considered such an emergency.
The committee’s findings would be reported to the permanent secretary of the ministry, Wicharn Simachaya, for further consideration, he said.
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