Elephants trample tourist to death after he left car to take photos

Elephants in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park
Elephants in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park - GUNTER NUYTS/ALAMY

Elephants have trampled a tourist to death in South Africa after he got out of his car to take their picture.

The 43-year-old Spaniard was killed on Sunday at the Pilanesberg National Park in North West Province, just over 100 miles from Johannesburg, police said on Tuesday.

He had left his vehicle and approached the herd, which included young calves, when they attacked him.

Wildlife experts often warn that elephants are especially protective of their young and can react aggressively to a perceived threat.

Sabata Mokgwabone, a police spokesman, said: “Reports suggest that the man stopped the vehicle, alighted and went closer to the elephants to take pictures.”

North West Province’s Parks and Tourism Board (NWPTB), which manages Pilanesberg, said that an adult female elephant then charged at the man.

It said: “He was unfortunately not able to escape or evade the elephant, which was now joined by the whole herd, and was caught and trampled to death.

Elephants in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park
Park officials said the matriarch of the herd attacked upon becoming 'agitated' after seeing the tourist approach - AFRICA MEDIA ONLINE/ALAMY

“The elephants moved away immediately from the scene without any aggression towards the nearby vehicles and eventually disappeared into the bushes.”

Pieter Nel, NWPTB’s chief conservation officer, said the matriarch of the herd attacked upon becoming “agitated” after seeing the tourist approach.

It is normal behaviour for elephants to try to “defend the young ones”, he added.

Mr Nel told AFP: “Lots of tourists are oblivious to the dangers and do not realise how dangerous these animals can be.”

The Spaniard’s companions, all from Johannesburg, were unharmed, police said, adding that they had opened an investigation.

Elephant attacks are not uncommon in the region. In 2021, a suspected poacher was killed by elephants in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Last year, 50 people were killed and 85 injured by wild animals – mostly elephants – in neighbouring Zimbabwe, according to local authorities.

Pilanesberg and other South African parks tell visitors driving through the reserves to keep their windows closed and not to disembark from their vehicles.

“The dangerous and unpredictable nature of wild animals are always emphasised on the permits and booklets for sale in Pilanesberg,” NWPTB said, adding it was saddened by the “tragic incident”.