The 28-year-old telecoms worker and his colleague were talking to the elephant’s keeper when the animal suddenly gored his chest. He died later in hospital.
“They were talking to the mahout (elephant keeper) about buying food for the elephant when it suddenly stabbed one man in the chest with its tusk and kicked the other,” said local police lieutenant Thawat Nongsingha, talking to AFP.
He added that the mahout had been charged with offences including violating animal welfare legislation and negligence causing death – for which the maximum penalty is 10 years in jail and a fine of 20,000 baht ($600). The elephant is still being cared for by the mahout, and the second injured man remains in hospital.
Dr Neil D’Cruze, head of wildlife research and policy for World Animal Protection, said: “This tragedy just goes to show that wild animals do not have any place in the tourist industry. To ‘train’ an elephant they are taken from their mothers at an early age and their spirit is broken through both physical and psychological pain, including isolation, starvation, beating and being chained-up in small enclosures.
“Tools like axes, knives, electric prods and hooks are commonly used in this process, known as ‘the crush’. Elephants are strong and intelligent – they belong in the wild, not to be used for entertainment or as tourist curiosities.”
There are around 4000 domesticated elephants in Thailand compared with just 2500 remaining in the wild. In fact the capture of wild elephants for entertainment use is now banned, but domestic elephants have been used in the tourist trade since they lost their former jobs following the outlawing of logging in 1989.
They are not allowed to enter cities, but incidents of mahouts using elephants as a means of begging are common, and the animals are often used legally to entertain holidaymakers in camps and zoos.
Meanwhile an African elephant that escaped from a German circus and killed a man over the weekend has now been rehomed in a safari park. The 34-year-old elephant, called Baby, killed a 65-year-old man who was walking in woods in Buchen, in south-west Germany. Police are still investigating whether someone forgot to close the elephant’s cage – or whether she was intentionally released. Baby is now living with three other elephants at Safari Park Stukenbrock.