An aggressive bull elephant that trampled its owner to death was fatally shot on Friday after charging out of the forest in Mondolkiri province, smashing six houses and frightening villagers, an NGO worker and an official said.
After killing its mahout, 45-year-old Choeung Tieng, on Wednesday following an expedition into the forest with tourists, the elephant, Toak, disappeared deeper into the forest near Katang village in Sen Monorom City’s Romnea commune.
On Thursday night, while authorities were waiting for a team of veterinarians to arrive from Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center with tranquilizer guns, “the elephant…returned to the village,” said Jemma Bullock, program manager for the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), which was assisting the family of the victim.
“He was really aggressive and clearly still in the signs of ‘musth,’” or mating behavior, she said. The mahout’s death has been blamed on the elephant being denied an opportunity to mate during the rutting season.
“The elephant smashed down six houses and was completely uncontrollable,” she said.
“Police and a fire truck came to help, and were firing warning shots and trying to scare him back to the forest. But when he kept attacking the house one police officer fired on his leg to stop him.”
The elephant, which was between 30 and 40 years old, collapsed at about 1 a.m. and died an hour later, Ms. Bullock said. It died from blood loss and was possibly shot again, she said in a post to the ELIE website on Friday.
The elephant had also reappeared on Thursday afternoon, “but we managed to scare him back into the forest using fireworks,” she added.
After its death, the elephant’s owners removed its tusks, fearing others might try to take the valuable ivory, she said. Photographs later surfaced on local media and false rumors began to circulate that the animal had been hacked to death, she said.
Kan Peng, police chief of Sen Monorom City, said there was no choice but to kill the animal because it had “killed a human and destroyed property.” He also said rescuers were taking too long to respond. The elephant had been buried, he added.
After Wednesday’s attack, the elephant had run into the forest with a female elephant.
“The female was recaptured by her owners Friday morning,” Ms. Bullock said.
phansoumy@cambodiadaily.com, phearun@cambodiadaily.com
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