The mahout in charge of an elephant that gored and seriously wounded an Italian tourist in Phang-Nga on Tuesday has been charged with recklessness causing injury.
Thung Kha Ngok deputy superintendent Pol Lt Colonel Siriwat Inyim on Wednesday reported the charge laid against 26-year-old mahout Kanchanapong Kanwichit.
The bull elephant, named Plai Thanwa, is chained up and under observation at the elephant camp in Muang district where the incident occurred.
The camp’s owner is to be questioned and more charges could follow.
Siriwat said he and Phang Nga Livestock Development Office chief Saroj Jittakan had visited the camp and interviewed witnesses.
Saroj suspected the elephant was eight or nine years old, not 12 as initially reported, and unused to giving strangers rides on its back.
He said there were about 270 elephants entertaining tourists at camps around the province but demand was so high that elephants normally used for labour were drafted into tourism service, an unfamiliar function in which they sometimes got out of control.
He said female elephants were better suited to tourism, but there weren’t enough of them available to meet demand, so bulls were sometimes used. Having male and female elephants quartered and working together, however, was asking for trouble, he said.
Tuesday’s incident took place at 10.30am at the Bang Kaew Adventure Elephant Camp, a former oil-palm plantation in the tambon of Song Praek.
Plai Thanwa had suddenly and violently shaken its two Italian riders from its back, upending the mahout too, and lunged at Trofa Manuel, 29, goring him with a tusk.
Francesco Di Megli, 31, sustained a leg injury in the fall.
Kanchanapong, also injured in the fall but not requiring treatment, told police the assault was unprovoked and Plai Thanwa had always been good-natured. It was not in rut, he said.