Elephants look gentle and kind. Zoologists say they’re very smart, and children’s books tell us they have excellent memories.
But they’re also very large, wild animals that must be treated and handled cautiously. An Italian tourist in Kenya and an elephant owner in Cambodia learned that lesson the hard way this week.
In Tsavo National Park, an elephant trampled a tourist to death as he photographed the beast at a watering point. Police said 66-year-old Fernando Mocclola was approaching the elephant for a closer shot when the animal became agitated and attacked him by charging and trampling on him.
Moccola "may have moved closer to them [the elephants] provoking the one that charged at him after it felt it was under a threat,” Malindi Police boss Muchangi Mutava told media Sunday.
The Italian tourist died while undergoing treatment at a hospital Sunday. He been touring Kenya for a month with his wife.
The Star of Kenya reported that Mocclola’s wife, who had warned him against getting too close to the elephant, was with him when the animal attacked.
Officials at the park have since issued a warning to visitors about the dangers of getting too close to certain animals.
In Cambodia, police are still looking for a male elephant that disappeared a week ago in pursuit of a female and trampled its owner to death on Monday when the man found it and tried to recapture it.
Pop Sreang, 55, who had trained the elephant to transport tourists to and from a waterfall in Mondolkiri Province, found the elephant, climbed on top of it and stuck a metal hook in its head to control it, The Cambodia Daily reported.
More than a dozen police officers, family members and tourists watched as “the rampaging elephant attacked the owner with his tusks and threw the owner into the sky and onto the ground,” said district governor Nuon Saron.
Then the elephant “stabbed with his tusks and trampled him [Sreang] to death.”
“It looked like a movie,” Saron said.
Villagers and tourists throughout the Mondolkiri province are being warned to steer clear of the elephant, which escaped into the forest, if they see it. Police are now carrying tranquilizer guns to sedate the animal if they find it.