6 Elephants Die After Plunging Over a Waterfall in Thailand


Six wild elephants fell over a treacherous waterfall in Thailand and died after one of the herd, a 3-year-old, was swept away by the river and the others tried to save it, national park officials said on Sunday.

The tragedy occurred after heavy rainfall in Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand, home to about 170 of the country’s 3,000 wild elephants.

“The baby fell and the other five were trying to help, but they fell into the waterfall, too,” the park’s director, Kanchit Srinoppawan, said in an interview.

Two other elephants avoided getting swept away but were trapped for a time when they tried to climb out of the rugged canyon.

There were no human witnesses to the episode, but park officials said that the animals’ tracks at the scene and their typical behavior supported the belief that the adults were trying to help the calf and one another when they got caught in the current and were swept over the waterfall.

Park rangers were alerted to the disaster by the sound of the distraught survivors trumpeting in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A similar tragedy occurred in 1992, when eight elephants were swept over the same waterfall and died, said Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand.

The 260-foot waterfall is known as Haew Narok, or Hell’s Abyss.

The national park, about 80 miles northeast of Bangkok, has installed fencing along the banks of the 115-foot-wide Samor Poon Creek to try to prevent such accidents. But it was not sufficient in this case, Mr. Kanchit said.

After the strong current swept the six elephants to their death, the two survivors, a mother and calf, found a pathway down to where the bodies were lying on the rocks.

A photograph released by the Department of National Parks showed the mother trying to rouse one of the dead.

Elephants are known to have close family ties and to grieve when a member of their herd dies.

Afterward, the pair took a route up from the creek that led to a dead end, Mr. Kanchit said, and were trapped there late Saturday.

“They went down but they couldn’t find their back way up,” he said.

Rangers left a large quantify of bananas to help them recover, and by Sunday morning they were gone.

Mr. Kanchit said that he believed the two had found their way to safety but that they had not been seen yet, dead or alive.

“There is no trace of them in the water, so the worry that they drowned like the others in their herd is not there anymore,” he said. “We believe they have brought themselves to safety, but we are still searching for them.”

Source : Nytimes