A bull elephant is on the loose in a forest after fatally stomping his owner in Mondolkiri province on Wednesday, shortly after he had been out on an expedition with tourists and other elephants, officials said.
The incident happened at about 11:30 a.m. as the animal’s mahout was apparently leading the animal back into the forest.
Keo Sopheak, head of the provincial environment department, said the mature male elephant first attacked Choeung Tieng with his trunk, before repeatedly trampling the 45-year-old mahout.
Provincial police chief Touch Yun said the elephant then ran away further into the forest near Katang village in Sen Monorom City’s Romnea commune.
Mr. Yun added that police were not sure what caused the elephant to turn on its owner. As of on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., the elephant had still not been caught.
“The elephant remains in the forest. Villagers are worrying…about their safety,” he said, adding that he was not sure of the elephant’s age but that it was old.
This is the second incident of an ethnic Bunong mahout being killed by elephants in the province, where the biggest population of domesticated elephants in the country live, currently around 44.
In September, Pop Sreang, 55, was trampled to death in Pech Chreada district when he attempted to recapture an elephant a week after it had escaped.
Jemma Bullock, program manager for the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment (ELIE), who has been assisting the family of the latest victim, said it was unclear what led to the attack.
“We found out the elephant was on a tour earlier this morning with two other elephants and some tourists,” she said.
“The tourists went back and the owner went to take the elephant back into the forest…then something happened.”
“He was by himself with the elephant, so nobody knows 100 percent for sure what happened and then the other owners [found] the body of the man.”
Ms. Bullock said one of the other elephants, a female, also ran away into the forest.
“The [victim’s] family is quite scared now,” she added.