Elephant gores handler to death and runs off into Thai jungle with tourists on its back

The male elephant reportedly did not respond well to its new handler 

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An elephant gored its handler to death before running off into the Thai jungle with three tourists on its back. 

A family of three from China were enjoying a ride on a male elephant in northern Thailand when the animal suddenly turned on its keeper, known as a ‘mahout’, according to local police reports.

The elephant had reportedly not taken well to its new keeper.

“The mahout who was killed was Karen and he was not familiar with the elephant,” Colonel Thawatchai Thepboon, police commander of the Mae Wing district in Chiang Mai province, said according to the Guardian.

“They [the tourists] are safe now.”

The Karen are an ethnic minority in the northern part of Thailand where the attack took place.

The country’s Channel 3 showed footage of the tourists being led back to camp, still on the elephant’s back, once it had been calmed down by other mahouts and their elephants.

Elephant rides are a popular tourist activity in Thailand, although many animals’ rights groups believe it is cruel and can be stressful for the large mammals. 

“Elephants work every day, of every month, basically 365 days per year,” said to Edwin Wiek, a campaigner from Wildlife Friends of Thailand.

“If you had to do the same you would get stressed. At some point they become crazy and we can’t control them.”

In November, two Russian tourists were rescued from an elephant which had trampled its handler to death and run off with the pair still on its back during  trek in southern Thailand.