HARARE, Zimbabwe – Tusker, a towering 50-year-old bull elephant who had become a favorite for safari camp visitors, was shot dead after New Year's party-goers provoked the animal into trampling several cars, conservationists said Monday.
Tusker was executed Sunday by rangers at the Charara camp on the shores of Lake Kariba, 230 miles northwest of Harare, parks officials and independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said.
Rangers said that Tusker had become a danger to people and was classified as a "problem animal."
Johnny Rodrigues, head of the task force, disagreed.
"Tusker was the resident Charara elephant ... he was a legend and a great favorite of tourists and locals alike," he said.
The one-tusked elephant was a regular to the Charara area, where he foraged for food in garbage cans.
Rodrigues said that the elephant was provoked into trashing cars by some of the hundreds of young people at a New Year's party, and that no one was hurt.
"Despite this senseless abuse, we have had no reports of Tusker hurting anyone, which is testament to his basic good nature," Rodrigues said. "It is shocking these parties where drugs and alcohol are abused should be permitted in wildlife areas."
Music from powerful speakers at the party could be heard for miles across the bush, he said.
Witnesses told The Associated Press the elephant stomped on beer and soda bottles and attempted to eat broken glass.
They reported drunken party goers taunting the elephant by throwing bottles, lighting fireworks, flashing car lights, hooting and even plucking hairs from the animal's tail and slapping its rump.
Rodrigues said an attempt to take the elephant to another area was abandoned because veterinarians said Tusker had an intestinal infection and was unlikely to survive medications given to him and the journey in a freight container.