An elephant which was shot dead after trampling several cars at a safari camp was provoked by revellers at a new year party, say conservationists in Zimbabwe. Tusker, a towering 50-year-old bull, was shot by rangers on Sunday at the Charara camp, which is on the shores of Lake Kariba, 370 miles north-west of Harare.
Johnny Rodrigues, of the independent Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, disputed a claim by park rangers that the one-tusked elephant had become a danger to people and had been classified as a "problem animal".
"Tusker was the resident Charara elephant ... he was a legend and a favourite of tourists and locals alike," said Mr Rodrigues, who claimed that music from the party could be heard for miles around and that witnesses reported that drunken party-goers had taunted the elephant by throwing bottles, lighting fireworks, flashing car lights and even plucking hairs from its tail and slapping its rump.
"Despite this senseless abuse, we have had no reports of Tusker hurting anyone, which is testament to his basic good nature," he said. "It is shocking that these parties where drugs and alcohol are abused should be permitted in wildlife areas," he added.
Witnesses told the Associated Press yesterday that the elephant, which was a regular visitor to the Charara area, where it foraged for food in rubbish bins, stamped on beer and soda bottles and attempted to eat broken glass.
An attempt to take the elephant to another area was abandoned, Mr Rodrigues added, because vets said that Tusker had an intestinal infection and was unlikely to survive doping and the journey in a freight container.