Thai­land ele­phant kills keeper, runs off with three main­land tourists on its back

The China Post - - LIFE GUIDE POST -

An ele­phant in north­ern Thai­land went berserk Wed­nes­day, killing his “ma­hout” keeper be­fore run­ning off into the jun­gle with three ter­ri­fied Chi­nese tourists still on his back, po­lice said.

“The ma­hout who was killed was Karen and he was not fa­mil­iar with the ele­phant. They ( the tourists) are safe now,” po­lice Col. Thawatchai Thep­boon, po­lice com­man­der of Mae Wang dis­trict in Chi­ang Mai province, told AFP.

The Karen are an eth­nic mi­nor­ity com­mon in north­ern Thai­land.

Po­lice said the in­ci­dent took place at 9.30 a. m. ( 0230 GMT) as a Chi­nese fam­ily of three — a fa­ther, mother and a young child — took a ride on the back of a male ele­phant.

Rides are a pop­u­lar and lu­cra­tive tourist ac­tiv­ity but many an­i­mal rights groups say it is cruel and stress­ful for the pachy­derms.

The ele­phant had not taken easily to his new keeper and turned on him sud­denly, gor­ing him to death, Chan­nel 3 re­ported.

The chan­nel broad­cast footage of the three fright­ened tourists be­ing led back to camp still on the ele­phant’s back once it had been calmed down by other ma­houts and their rides.

Thai­land’s roughly 4,000 do­mes­ti­cated ele­phants out­num­ber an es­ti­mated 2,500 re­main­ing in the wild.

Do­mes­tic ele­phants in Thai­land — where the pachy­derm is a na­tional sym­bol — have been used en masse in the tourist trade since they found them­selves un­em­ployed in 1989 when log­ging was banned.

Ac­ci­dents are not un­heard of. In June an ele­phant killed a Thai man and in­jured another as they were eat­ing din­ner at a beach­side res­tau­rant. The pair had been talk­ing to the an­i­mal’s ma­hout when it sud­denly flipped.

Rights groups have doc­u­mented the more un­scrupu­lous ma­houts us­ing con­tro­ver­sial tech­niques to crush the an­i­mal’s spirit or se­verely over­work­ing their rides to make more money.

“Ele­phants work ev­ery day, of ev­ery month, ba­si­cally 365 days per year,” Ed­win Wiek, a cam­paigner from Wildlife Friends of Thai­land told AFP.

“If you had to do the same, you would get stressed. It is the same for ele­phants. At some point they be­come crazy and we can’t con­trol them.”

The ac­ci­dent comes as Thai­land’s tourism in­dus­try reels from last week’s bomb­ing of a re­li­gious shrine in Bangkok, an at­tack that killed 20 peo­ple, mostly eth­nic Chi­nese devo­tees from across Asia.

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