An elephant has trampled its owner to death in Cambodia after tourists begged for the animal to be released from its shackles so they could get a better photo with it.
The 60-year-old bull elephant, called Atork, had his chains released so a group of tourists visiting eastern Cambodia could have their photos taken with it in a more natural environment.
But shortly afterwards, the unattended elephant wandered off into the jungle, away from the village where it was being kept.
The elephant’s owner, 47-year-old Choeung Team, hurried after the animal and into the jungle where villagers found his trampled body next to the animal.
They had become concerned that Mr Choeung had not returned and started started a search.
Although the incident is being investigated the owner’s nephew, Saroeun Naro insisted: ‘Atork used his trunk to beat him and trampled on him.’
He told the Phnom Penh Post that a group of tourists whose nationalities have not been revealed asked Mr Choeung to release the elephant’s shackles so they could take photos of themselves with the animal.
Later, while the group was getting ready for lunch, Atork walked away, with Mr Choeung heading off into the jungle to look for him shortly afterwards.
‘I don’t know what the problem with Atork was,’ said the guide’s nephew.
Maybe he needed a female elephant or he was angry with my uncle.’
Local police officer Norng Chanthea told the paper that the elephant was among others regularly used to transport tourists in the area to show them the ethnic minority’s way of life.
‘The owner was killed by his elephant when it was in rut,’ said Mr Norng, referring a natural hormonal surge also known as musth.
District chief Long Vibol told the paper that villagers had used six elephants over recent years to show tourists around a typical ethnic village.
Ms Jemma Bullock, an official with the Elephant Livelihood Initiative Environment, told the Cambodia Daily that Atork had been out on a tour with two other elephants and a group of tourists earlier that day.
Today, the elephant was still on the loose.
Another senior police officer, Touch Yun, said villagers would remain concerned about their safety until the elephant could be caught.
Just last September 55-year-old Pop Sreang was also trampled to death in another district when he tried to recapture an elephant after it had escaped.