An international animal welfare group has warned of the cruelty involved in elephant rides and the dangers they pose to tourists after a Scottish man was killed during a trekking tour in Thailand on Monday.
A 36-year-old man was sat on top of a male elephant with his 16-year-old daughter in Koh Samui when the animal became distressed and attacked the mahout after he climbed down to take a photo, the Bangkok Post reports.
After the elephant impaled the Myanmar trainer, the animal ran off, throwing the British tourists from his back and trampling the father.
It is believed that the young girl sustained minor injuries from the fall.
The Chiangrai Times reports that witnesses recall the 13-year-old elephant being hit several times with a bullhook by the mahout moments before the incident.
Elephant rides are a popular activity for tourists, but animal welfare groups say the practice is “cruel” as the wild animals frequently get hit with bullhooks during training to ensure the animal is submissive and compliant.
Following today's tragic news, World Animal Protection is urging visitors to the popular South East-Asian destination to avoid such “entertainment”.
The group said: “Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of the man who lost his life.
“This is a stark reminder that elephants are wild animals, and not meant to be ridden.
“Elephants are cruelly abused to tame them enough so they give rides and perform in shows.
“Most tourists don’t know about these abuses, or the potential danger they put themselves in.
“If you can ride it, hug it or have a selfie with a wild animal, then the chances are it is cruel and the animal is suffering. Now you know, vote with your feet and don’t go.”