An elephant killed a tourist in Koh Samui, Thailand, on Monday afternoon. According to reports, 36-year-old Gareth Crowe and his 16-year-old daughter were thrown off the elephant’s back during a tour of the island. Although the teen’s injuries were minor, her father was killed in the incident.
Time reports the father and daughter were riding on the back of the elephant, named Gulf, with the animal’s handler. According to witness reports, the elephant seemed to be somewhat aggravated and was not responding to the handler’s commands. However, he did not strike out until the handler dismounted to take a picture.
Witnesses said the 13-year-old elephant gored his handler and proceeded to throw the father and daughter off his back. Although the teen was hurt in the fall, she fled to avoid further injury. Unfortunately, her father was unable to escape.
Gareth Crowe, who had a prosthetic leg, simply could not run away. According to witness reports, the 36-year-old man was gored and trampled to death.
The fate of the elephant who killed the tourist is unknown at this time. However, Travel Wires reports Gulf was captured and tranquilized at the scene.
Local Police Chief Paiboon Omark suggested “the hot weather made the elephant angry and… he was not accustomed to his [handler.]” However, some witnesses said the elephant appeared to be in musth.
As described by Animal Behavior Online, musth is a period of “heightened aggressiveness” observed in male elephants who are “primed to mate.” During the musth cycle, male elephants usually target other bulls. Unfortunately, they may turn their aggression toward other animals and humans.
Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand founder Edwin Wiek said the elephant who killed the tourist in Thailand was likely in musth, and should not have been used to conduct tours. In fact. Wiek said, “male elephants should not be a part of these treks at all as they are uncontrollable when they are in heat.”
Some animal rights activists have spoken out against the use of any elephants in the tourism trade.
An estimated 4,000 elephants are currently being used for photo ops, rides, and guided tours throughout Thailand. However, activists are calling Monday’s tragedy “one of may tragic reminders of the reasons why elephants should not be ridden.” PETA senior campaigner Ashley Fruno explains.
“Although tragic, it should come as no surprise when elephants snap and attack… When tourists choose to partake in elephant rides, they not only support the cruelty that is entrenched in this industry but also risk their own safety.”
A World Animal Protection spokesperson expressed similar sentiments. In a statement, which was published by Sky News, the spokesperson said Gareth Crowe’s death is a “stark reminder” of the cruelty surrounding elephant domestication.
“Elephants are cruelly abused to tame them enough so they give rides and perform in shows. Most tourists don’t know about these abuses, or the potential danger they put themselves in. If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then the chances are it is cruel and the animal is suffering.”
Although attacks are rare, an estimated 11 handlers and tourists were killed by domesticated elephants in Thailand in recent years. A majority of those attacks were carried out by male elephants — who were likely in a musth cycle.
It is unclear whether the elephant who killed the tourist was in his musth cycle. However, witnesses said his behavior indicated he was. Officials have not announced whether Gulf will be used for future trekking tours.
[Image via oneinchpunch/Shutterstock]