Police in the southern province of Dong Nai have arrested five people on suspicion of killing a wild elephant in 2011 with military weapons, and for illegally trading and keeping the rare animals.
Dong Nai police announced on Tuesday that they had apprehended Cao Van Minh and Nguyen Minh Duc as they entered a forest on a motorbike on October 13.
They were carrying a rifle, a silencer, a cartridge, and 40 bullets, police said, adding that searches at their accommodations produced more weapons, including two self-made guns, one air gun, and lots of bullets.
Police obtained information from the duo and then arrested Do Tuan Vu and Phan Ngoc Hoang who have allegedly accompanied them on hunting trips in local forests since 2010.
Meanwhile, a woman named Nguyen Thi Ngoc was also apprehended for allegedly selling weapons to the men, police said. Numerous air guns, bullets and explosives were discovered at Ngoc's living place, they added.
According to police, they suspected the poachers of murdering a wild elephant in Tan Phu Forest, Dinh Quan District, nearly two years ago.
The elephant was found dead on December 23, 2011, with one of its tusks missing.
Since it was in the process of decaying when discovered, the animal, which weighed nearly seven tons, was believed to have been killed about ten days before.
Through an autopsy, police later found one bullet in its head and another in its right front leg, besides a 50-centimeter long cut on its back.
Dong Nai police are continuing to investigate the incident.
Official figures showed that nine elephants have been killed in Dong Nai forests since 2009.
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