The British tourist killed by an elephant in Thailand did what many tourists like to do, have a picture taken while riding an elephant with his daughter. The tourist, 36-year-old Gareth Crowe, and his 16-year-old daughter Eilidh were on an elephant ride on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand when the animal all of a sudden turned on its handler, threw Crowe and his daughter off, and then trampled and gored Crowe through his chest with his tusks.
Monday’s horrific incident has sparked an investigation by the governor of Surat Thani, according to a February 2 CNN report. As part of the investigation, authorities are looking into Island Safari Tour, the company that is legally registered to offer elephant treks.
According to Crowe’s 16-year-old daughter Eilidh, she and her father were riding on the 13-year-old male elephant during the trek but when the handler got down to take a photo of them, the animal went berserk and attacked them. While Eilidh escaped the attack with minor injuries, her father was trampled and gored to death right in front of her eyes.
Other witnesses support Eilidh’s account of what had happened and are adding that the male elephant had shown some signs of musth two days before the ride and that just moments before the attack, the male elephant was not following the handler’s instructions. Musth, the annual cycle that bull elephants experience during mating season, is characterized by aggressive behavior including fighting other bull elephants and attacking anyone or anything that is in its way. Testosterone levels are at their highest level in musth males and likely regulate this extreme form of reproductive behavior.
“Gareth and Eilidh had been riding a male elephant called Golf, when their guide named locally as Pamang, climbed down to photograph the family. Witnesses said in the moments leading up to the attack Golf had appeared upset and was refusing to follow Pamang’s instructions, causing him to hit the elephant with a stick until he obeyed. Golf then attacked Pamang with its trunk before goring him in the chest with a tusk and rearing on its hind legs. Eilidh and her father were thrown from its back and the elephant then stomped and gored the dad before running into a nearby forest.”
Local newspapers like the Bangkok Post or the Samui Times refute the idea that the male elephant was in his musth since Asian male elephants do not start their musth cycle until they are about 20 and even African elephants do not reach this stage of maturity until they are 25 or so years old. Gold is believed to be only 13 years old.
Instead of blaming the elephant, the local newspapers report that Crowe was teasing the elephant with a banana before it became aggressive and attacked. Crowe’s daughter replied to the local media from her hospital bed:
“He was not teasing the elephant as I was his 16 year old daughter who is lying in hospital and I was on it. I know everything that happened. This is a serious situation !!!”
The situation that Crowe’s daughter is referring to is the big business of elephant rides. According to a spokeswoman for World Animal Protection, most tourists are unaware that the elephants used on these treks are subjected to tremendous amounts of animal cruelty in order to make them tame enough to give those rides. In regard to the British tourist being killed by a male Thai elephant, the spokeswoman said that it was “a stark reminder” for tourists that elephants “are not supposed to be ridden.”