BANGKOK: Six wild elephants drowned after slipping off a waterfall at the Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.
Two others were saved in the incident on Saturday (Oct 5) at the Haew Narok Waterfall in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, officials said.
The elephant pair had apparently attempted to save one of those that fell, but they found themselves trapped on a thin, slippery sliver of rock above the churning waters.
The dead elephants included a three-year-old calf, said park chief Kanchit Srinoppawan. The waterfall has been closed temporarily following the incident.
"It was an accident. We have often seen this happening," National Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa told Reuters.
Officials in the northeastern Khao Yai national park were alerted to elephants "crying" for help at 3am, the Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said in a statement.
Hours later they found six bodies at the bottom of the gushing Haew Narok waterfall, also known as Hell's Abyss.
Park officials tossed food laced with nutritional supplements to the stranded elephants in an attempt to boost their energy and give them the strength to climb back up into the forest. They later said the two had been rescued but were extremely distressed.
Parks department spokesperson Sompoch Maneerat said it was unclear what caused the accident.
"No one knows for sure the real cause of why they fell, but there was heavy rain there last night," he told AFP.
The waterfall was closed to tourists as the rescue took place.
Founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, Edwin Wiek said a similar incident happened at the same waterfall in 1992.
There are around 300 wild elephants in the park, which covers more than 2,000 square km of forest and grassland. It is home to various wild animals, including bears, elephants and gibbons, and is a popular destination for tourists.