A runaway circus elephant killed a man in Germany early Saturday morning. An unnamed 65-year-old man was taking his regular morning walk near Buchen when the pachyderm trampled him. Officials report that the death was instant.
Nearby residents witnessed the incident, saying that the elephant apparently charged the walker unexpectedly. They called the police immediately.
The perpetrator was a 34-year-old female African elephant named Baby. Shortly after the incident, officials arrived on the scene and the animal was captured and returned to the circus. Investigations are trying to determine the reason for the animal’s aggressive behavior towards the man.
The Heidelberg police, who are handling the incident, report that there may be foul play involved.
“There’s evidence of third party involvement,” Yvonne Schmierer, police spokeswoman reported. “Either someone forgot to shut the enclosure, or the elephant was released intentionally.”
This isn’t Baby’s first incident. There have been several reports of the elephant acting out, and even injuring people. In 2010, Baby catapulted a circus worker high into the air, leaving him badly injured. Two years later, Baby abused a 12-year-old boy with his trunk, breaking the boy’s jaw.
Thankfully, the elephant has not killed in the past, but there have been reports of the same pachyderm breaking out of the enclosure several times before.
PETA and other activists are attributing the animal’s repeated aggression to poor housing conditions. They are accusing the circus of housing the animal in too-small and too-cold containers. They are calling for safe removal of the animal to release her into the wild where she belongs, and at the very least, improved housing conditions.
The official punishment for this outrageous offense has not been determined, but for now, the animal has been returned to her circus home to await possible disciplinary action.
Though they appear quite docile, elephants can be fairly aggressive, even in a captive setting, as evidenced from several past encounters. In one 2013 event, an elephant killed a zookeeper in Missouri. The 62-year-old elephant keeper was attending to the elephant barn at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield when a 41-year-old elephant named Patience unexpectedly lashed out and killed the worker. In this case, the elephant was not disciplined.
Though elephant attacks on humans are rare, they are extremely unpredictable. Citizens around the world are reminded that, though the animal may look peaceful, they can be quite aggressive. They can run 25 miles an hour at top speed, and lift about 600 pounds. That’s enough for an elephant to kill a man with ease.
[Image via One Green Planet]