An elephant trampled a man to death Thursday at a rehabilitation facility in Phnom Penh after the man hit the beast on the trunk with a rake, a local newspaper and government officials reported.
Nyat Horn, 65, was the uncle of the elephant’s usual caretaker, said Sun Hean, assistant to the minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Nyat Horn had cared for the elephant in the past, Sun Hean said.
It was not known why Nyat Horn was in the elephant’s enclosure. The elephant is known to be dangerous, and people had been warned to stay away from her.
A witness said he saw the elephant, named Srei Pov, push Nyat Horn, who then cracked the elephant across its trunk. The elephant then attacked. The elephant was moved to Phnom Tamao Zoo in Takeo province the same day, Sun Hean said.
The elephant, estimated to be at least 50 years old, was recuperating at a military base in Tuol Kok district from foot injuries it suffered while giving rides to tourists at a resort in Kandal province.
The elephant was being cared for by the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, with financial support from the private NGO WildAid, Sun Hean said. WildAid President Suwanna Gauntlett could not be reached for comment Monday.
The elephant was one of three confiscated from a Kandal province resort in October. A 16-year-old elephant was immediately moved to the Phnom Tamao Zoo, while Srei Pov and another elephant were kept at the Tuol Kok military camp.
The three elephants originally had been purchased in the provinces and were used for tourist rides, according to officials at the Office of Wildlife Protection. The government took the animals after flooding ruined their habitat.
Poaching has decimated Cambodia’s wild elephant population, and only 300 to 600 animals remain, according to recent estimates. A survey of domestic elephants completed last year found 162 animals still alive and working in Cambodia.