The five-ton elephant was found decomposing in a forest preserve of Dong Nai province. It had multiple stab wounds and one tusk had been cut off, the Vietnam News Agency quoted the chief of the Tan Phu Protective Forest Management Board as saying.

Authorities also found bones in a pile near a bonfire and said parts of the elephant's skull had been hacked off.

Officials of the 14,000-hectare park said the elephant may have been dead for 10 days.

Forest rangers said the elephant was recently spotted in nearby farmers' fields, presumably searching for food, Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

It was the ninth elephant to be killed in the province since 2009.

Government statistics show just 80 elephants left in the wild. The population is endangered by poaching and deforestation.

Local media has reported several cases of elephants attacking humans in recent years, due to encroachment on their natural habitat.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - December 26, 2011