Officials are calling an animal attack “unusual” after a wild elephant trampled an 11-year-old girl to death on Sunday near the Chi Phat eco-tourism zone in Koh Kong province.
At about 11am, the young girl, named Cheam Sokkhim, was fishing with her mother at a protected area when the male elephant emerged and went on a rampage, Koh Kong’s Thmor Bang district police chief Saum Samei told the Post yesterday.
They ran, but the elephant started chasing after them, and then the daughter fell down.
The elephant then kicked and crushed her with its foot, according to Samei.
“This is the first time this has happened,” Samei said. “Before, elephants used to be afraid of people, but now they chase people.”
John Willis, director of programs for the preservation group Wildlife Alliance, which oversees Chi Phat, said elephant attacks are unheard of around the eco-tourism zone.
“There have been some elephant attacks in other provinces … but we haven’t heard of any elephant attacks in Chi Phat,” Willis said.
However, he added that a male elephant in the area was reported to be acting aggressively around the same time last year.
According to Samei, the elephants have grown bolder ever since Chi Phat became a popular tourist destination.
In 2013, Willis said that Wildlife Alliance recorded 2,000 international tourist visits in the area.
“There are banana and sugar plantations around there that tend to attract elephants, and that might be a factor … but as far as elephants being acclimated to humans, I don’t know if it is,” Willis said.
A Wildlife Alliance worker, who has not been authorised to speak to the press, confirmed that the wild elephant has since disappeared into the forest and that the NGO is looking at policies on how to deal with the incident.
“This is a tourist site, so we couldn’t do anything to the animal,” Samei said. “We only hope that people would be more careful about this.”
The family of the victim could not be reached.