An elephant that attacked a vehicle in Kruger National Park in South Africa late last month was put down because it posed a risk to other park visitors, park officials said.
Park officials say the bull elephant was "on musth," or experiencing a substantial rise in testosterone levels due to breeding season, and became enraged at the vehicle and its two passengers, who reportedly were videotaping the elephant.
A YouTube video posted by tourists behind the attacked vehicle showed it was closely following the bull and did not immediately back up when the elephant turned and headed toward them. The elephant flipped the vehicle over, and a woman in it was seriously injured when the elephant gored her in the upper thigh with one of its tusks.
While there was public outcry over the decision to euthanize the elephant, South African National Parks officials said they had little choice. Mr. Abe Sibiya, the managing executive of Kruger National Park, said the incident is a consequence of parks allowing people to enjoy the natural environment.
“While it is expected in an environment such as the Kruger National Park that human and animal conflict will always occur, it is also vitally important that members of the public visiting various national parks should always adhere to the rules," he said in a statement.
Mr. Sibiya said while the park can understand the public outcry and anger over the decision to put down the elephant, he added that the public must have confidence in the park management.
“The park is managed by adequately qualified officials who are able to make informed and appropriate decisions at any given time," he said.
According to the official, the decision to euthanize the animal was not taken lightly but based on the information from the assessment of park rangers that the elephant was likely to attack tourist vehicles in the future.
“It is for this reason that we appeal to our patrons to act in a responsible manner and give such information as quick as possible rather than share it on social media platforms," he said.
He said to bring closure to the matter, SANParks would need co-operation from the visitors that took the video.
“The law stipulates that evidence such as this should be accompanied by a written statement from eyewitnesses as the footage cannot be the only permissible evidence in order to sanction any fine against the alleged perpetrators.
“Tourists need to change their behavior when on self-game drives… we drive this message in our communication at check in points, on our brochures and on the permits," said Mr. Sibiya. "It is highly impossible to have constant policing on holiday makers as the park's resources are already stretched with many operations going on at the same time."