In May 2013, two horrible incidents with tamed elephants occurred in elephant camps in Thailand.
On May 13th, 19 year old female elephant “Bua Ngern” killed her mahout while he was about to unchain her. The attack occurred in Mahawang Elephant Camp in Sai York district. According to the local police, the reason why the elephant became aggressive is the heat wave (up to 40°C).
Just two weeks later, the next accident happened in Lae Paniad Elephant Kraal in Ayutthaya. 27-year-old tusker “Plai Big” attacked a couple of Thai tourists while they approached him with food. The bull, who was chained at the time of the attack, grabbed the woman with his trunk and trampled her. Her husband, who wanted to help his wife, was gored with one of the tusks and thrown into the air. The woman later died in hospital. Explanation of the camp owner: The bull was frightened when the woman approached him with food and afraid of getting hurt. To free the elephant from the spirit of his victim, the end of his tusks were sawn off (!). According to his owner, the elephant would not work with tourists again. But to keep the bull away from the tourists won`t eliminate the deadly danger for the mahouts and barely minimizes the risk for guests, since enclosures that can safely contain adult bull elephants don`t exist in Ayutthaya.
The explanations of the owners in both cases are ridiculous. Unfortunately, this total lack of understanding means that not even the much-visited camps like Ayutthaya will take the necessary measures to protect mahouts and tourists alike from these “mankillers” – the next tragedy is just a matter of time. In both cases in May 2013, the victims were Thai, but visiting an elephant camp is an incalculable, deadly risk for the numerous foreign tourists too. No one warns them – and the knowledge that dangerous elephants are routinely badly mistreated and kept in chains to try and keep them under control is kept a secret, too.