Six elephants plummet to their deaths at a Thai waterfall while attempting to rescue one another

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elephants die saving one of their herd

At the Haew Narok Waterfall in the Khao Yai National Park of Thailand, six young elephants plunged to their deaths while trying to save one another from drowning in the water. The incident was reported on Saturday, October 5, when a group of elephants blocked a road leading to the waterfall. According to Thailand’s Department of National Parks (DNP), officials were deployed to handle the situation and get the animals off of the road. 

Hours later, they discovered the body of a baby elephant nestled among the rocks at the base of the fall. Five other young bodies were discovered nearby. Two other elephants were rescued by the officials from falling to their deaths. They were found struggling to come off the edge of a cliff and were immediately extracted. In a video shared by BBC, the animals wore somber looks, sad rather than scared, staring down at the bodies of the young calves while trying to hang onto the edge of the cliff [1].

All alone in a cold, hard world

According to Khanchit Srinoppawan, the Chief of the park, the two surviving elephants are being cared for by a veterinarian [2]. Surviving out in the wild would most likely become very difficult for them now. Elephants are herd animals that need packs to survive. These packs are like families and they protect one another selflessly, a behavioral trait evident in the unfortunate deaths of the six babies.

“It’s like losing half your family,” said Edwin Wiek, founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, “There’s nothing you can do; it’s nature, unfortunately.”

The Haew Narok Waterfall (Hell’s Fall) is a notorious spot for fatal falls. In 1992, an entire herd of eight elephants fell to their deaths at the fall, a story that saddened many around the world [3]. At the time, The Khao Yai was said to be home to 200 elephants. The incident occurred during the rainy season when the calves were trying to cross the river at a shallow point. Strong currents swept them over and they plunged into the waterfall.

Elephants are empathetic creatures

Studies have shown that elephants are emotional animals that display signs of grief and heartbreak when one of their herd dies [4]. They pay their respects by standing around the body of the deceased member for hours, running their trunks along its body with sad expressions in the eyes.

They’ve also been found to express joy when a new member is born into the herd. A group of lucky tourists recently captured footage of an elephant giving birth in the wild [5]. When her baby came, the rest of the herd was overwhelmed with joy. They began to trumpet loudly, celebrating the newborn and also warning off anyone who might try to bother the vulnerable animal.

It is currently estimated that about 7000 elephants, both wild and domesticated, remain in Thailand [1], this is a stark contrast from even 100 years ago when their numbers were in the hundreds of thousands [6].  

  1. Reporter. Six elephants die trying to save each other at Thai waterfall. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-49944885. Retrieved 09-10-19
  2. Julia Musto. Six elephants fall to their death trying to save each other at Thai waterfall. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/world/six-elephants-fall-to-their-death-trying-to-save-each-other-at-thai-waterfall. Retrieved 09-10-19
  3. Reporter. Expert Says Forest Service Did Too Little to Save Baby Elephants. Associated Press. https://www.apnews.com/d01bd69fdc2d379ba4518deb45a1aa81. Retrieved 09-10-19
  4. Cari Romm. A New Video Shows How Elephants Pay Their Respects to the Dead. The Cut. https://www.thecut.com/2016/09/how-elephants-mourn-their-dead.html. Retrieved 09-10-19
  5. Admin. Elephant Gives Birth In Middle of a Safari, Seconds Later The Herd Greets New Baby. Reshare Worthy. https://www.reshareworthy.com/wild-elephant-gives-birth/. Retrieved 09-10-19
  6. http://www.eleaid.com/country-profiles/elephants-thailand/

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