PHUKET: A bull elephant beat his handler to death as the man attempted to unchain the animal to carry tourists visiting a Phuket elephant camp today.

The 23-year-old elephant, Plai Por, was allowed to carry tourists at Phuchada Safari in Rawai yesterday, but was showing signs of musth, so was then locked up, Lt Chollada Chokdeesrijun of Chalong Police told the Phuket Gazette.

Musth is a period of heightened sexual excitement in bull elephants, characterized by highly aggressive behavior that coincides with a surge in testosterone levels.

“He was starting to show signs of musth over the weekend, but was allowed to take tourists for a walk yesterday morning. However, the mahout [handler] thought Plai Por was not in a condition to keep working with tourists, so chained him up in the afternoon,” explained Lt Chollada.

The handler, Wittawat Salangam, 22, was unchaining the elephant today when he was attacked.

“When Mr Wittawat went to take off the chain, Plai Por pushed him down hard with his trunk and then began to repeatedly beat him with his trunk until Mr Wittawat was dead – the elephant remained chained,” Lt Chollada said.

Mr Wittawat’s body was transferred to Vachira Phuket Hospital.

Plai Por will be detained at the camp until the musth period has passed. Lt Chollada confirmed that staff at the camp expect the elephant to return to work afterward.

Phuchada Safari staff declined to comment to the Gazette about the incident.

Plai Por killing Mr Wittawat comes just days after an elephant in Phang Nga trampled his handler to death and ran into the jungle with two Russian tourists on his back (story here).

— Kritsada Mueanhawong