Five wild elephants have died in Thailand while trying to save a calf, who had slipped over a waterfall.
The tragic accident happened at Khao Yai National Park when a baby elephant slipped into a waterfall, locally known as Haew Narok or “Hell’s Fall,” and others rushed over to help.
Park officials said that they heard loud elephant cries from the creek near the waterfall on Saturday morning, October 5.
After a few hours, officials found a 3-year-old elephant calf drowned near the base of the waterfall.
Park officials said five more elephants were found drowned in a nearby ravine. Two living elephants were also seen struggling on a cliff nearby and were moved by authorities.
Thanya Netithamkul, chief of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, told local media that park rangers heard elephants crying in the creek leading to the waterfall on Saturday morning.
“Park officials rushed to the scene to find a baby elephant aged around three years drowned on the top layer of the waterfall. They also noticed two adult elephants, which were frantically trying to advance into the flowing water to save their young, looking exhausted.”
“I have ordered the national park to close the area to tourists and will find ways to prevent such accidents from happening again in the future.”
Elephants rely on large herds for protection and finding food. After the tragic incident, the two elephants left may now struggle to survive, Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, said.
Mr. Wiek told the BBC:
“It’s like losing half your family. There’s nothing you can do, its nature, unfortunately.”
Due to the incident, the Haew Narok fall has been made off-limits, despite being a popular tourist attraction site in the region. The waterfall has three tiers, the largest at over 262 feet, and is the biggest waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.
National Resources and Environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, said such incidences are quite common in the park, with eight elephants dying at the waterfall in 1992.
Thailand is home to approximately 7,000 Asian elephants, although more than half of these “world’s largest wild animals” live in captivity.
According to Save Elephant Foundation, in Sri Lanka, about 60 elephants were tamed to take part in a Buddhist festival in Kandy in August.
The animal charity also shared pictures of an emaciated elephant called Tikiri, repeatedly made to parade across the streets for 10 nights during Esala Perahera.
The founder of the charity, Lek Chailert, said.
“Tikiri joins in the parade early every evening until late at night every night for 10 consecutive nights, amidst the noise, the fireworks, and smoke.”
“She walks many kilometers every night so that people will feel blessed during the ceremony. No one sees her bony body or her weakened condition because of her costume.”
“No one sees the tears in her eyes, injured by the bright lights that decorate her mask, no one sees her difficulty to step as her legs are short shackled while she walks.”