BANGKOK: A Thai man was trampled to death by five wild elephants near a rubber plantation Friday, police said, the latest deadly encounter in a country where pachyderms are both venerated and feared.
Masaree Samae, 40, was killed in the early morning attack in southern Yala province, home to many of Thailand’s sprawling rubber plantations.
“The victim was riding his motorbike on the way to tap rubber… and was circled by five elephants,” police captain Sathit Woonchoom told AFP by phone.
“I conducted the autopsy with a doctor and found wounds on his back and head,” Sathit said.
The officer said he heard elephants rustling in the bushes near when he arrived at the scene to investigate.
Thailand’s wild elephant population has dwindled to about 2,700 from a peak of 100,000 in 1850, according to the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre.
Deforestation and habitat loss has brought them in closer contact with humans in recent decades, and they often clash with villagers — sometimes killing them.
Villagers have also killed the elephants despite them being a protected species.
Elephants are also poached or domesticated for entertainment and tourism.
Thailand has come under fire for its notorious elephant tourism trade and the threatened animals are widely used in circus performances, to give rides, or in films and on TV.
In November last year a five-tonne elephant that has starred in feature films and commercials crushed its owner to death in Chiang Mai.
The animal was in musth — a state of high aggression among males accompanied by a hormonal surge — when the accident happened, zoo officials said.
Two wild elephants were killed earlier this year by a pineapple farm worker who set up an electric fence set up to kill the creatures.
He was charged with poaching but quickly released on bail.