Update: Environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa said on Tuesday that rangers found five more elephants died from the fall. A total of 11 elephants died in this tragedy.
PRACHINBURI — Park officials on Monday are trying to retrieve the bodies of six elephants that fell to their death at Haew Narok Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park over the weekend.
Security officers were making their way down the waterfall Monday morning to reach the carcasses, which were washed away downstream, local wildlife official Witthaya Hongwiangchan said. The team will then try to secure the bodies with nets to prevent them from reaching and contaminating a major dam down the stream.
“Given the distance and the current’s strength, it would take four to five days for the carcasses to reach the net,” Witthaya said. “After that, monks will conduct rituals and veterinarians will dissect the bodies. They will be buried properly.”
A herd of eight elephants plunged 80 meters down the Haew Narok Waterfall, literally “Hell’s Abyss,” on Saturday morning. Six died from the fall, while two, a mother and a calf, managed to push themselves out of the torrents and survived; they were later returned safely into the wild.
Khanchit Srinoppawan, chief of Khao Yai National Park, believed that the elephants might have fallen while trying to help their fellow friends in jeopardy.
“The incident might have occurred after a calf slipped over the waterfall,” Khanchit said. “As elephants are social animals, they attempted to help each other but failed, causing them to drown.”
The waterfall, which is the largest in Khao Yai National Park, will remain closed to tourists while the operation is underway.
This is not the first tragedy at the ravine. In 1992, eight elephants fell to their death at the same spot.
Khao Yai National Park is believed to be a home to more than 200 elephants. The 2,168 square kilometers park spans over four provinces and is part of the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.