At 10:30am yesterday (Jan 30), Chalong Police received a call from the owner of an elephant camp in Soi Yodsanae, Moo 10, Chalong where it was reported that one of its elephants had started to be aggressive when taking tourists out on a trek.
Police advised the owner to call the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO), officers from which then went to the area in the Nakkerd Hills.
PPLO officials arrived to find police officers and the mahout, or elephant handler, watching an elephant named “Grongthong” walking through the forested area.
PPLO officers decided that it would be necessary to use a tranquillizer gun to sedate the animal and used three darts in their first attempt. This was not enough and therefore another two darts were shot.
The mahout then approached Grongthong to try to capture him, but in retaliation Grongthong thrashed the mahout with his trunk leaving the man with an injury to his hand.
In November 2014, then PPLO Chief issued a stern warning to elephant camps to be careful about using elephants during breeding season when bull elephants are in musth, a highly excitable hormonal state in which the animals become unpredictable and dangerous.
Werasit Puthipairoj, who was PPLO Chief at that time, issued the warning after a mahout was killed at the Phuchada Safari kraal in Naiharn on Nov 17, 2014, by Nong Po, a 23-year-old bull elephant which was in musth.
Nong Po picked up Wittawat Salangan, 22, from Surin Province, in his trunk, slammed him to the ground and then knelt down, crushing him with his head and tusks.
That death came just two days after a similar incident in Phang Nga in which a mahout was killed and a Russian woman with an eight-month-old baby spent a terrifying 30 minutes sitting in the howdah atop the raging elephant. (See story here.)