South African elephant handler slips off back of elephant and is trampled to death

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The owner of an elephant park in South Africa says one of his handlers was trampled to death while taking elephants out for exercise.

Craig Saunders, owner of the Elephant Sanctuary near Hartbeespoort Dam, west of Pretoria, said the accident happened on Monday.

Saunders says the handler slipped off the back of an elephant that was engaging in "boisterous behavior" with another elephant. He says the handler ended up in the midst of the altercation, which happened during an early morning exercise program for the elephants that is closed to guests.

The website of the sanctuary says it offers elephant back-riding to guests and notes the "special relationship" between handlers and the elephants.