Paint-Crazed Elephant Kills Keeper

MONDAY, JANUARY 6, 2014


Paint fumes are believed to have spurred an elephant to fatally attack its longtime trainer in a cage he was painting at a popular tourist center in Vietnam.

Elephant keeper Doan Huu Tai, 28, was killed about 3:15 p.m. Dec. 23 after he stepped into the cage of two-ton, 9-year-old Ka with an open can of paint in order to paint the cage.

Authorities said Ka, who had trained with Tai for seven years, entwined his trunk around the trainer and smashed him against a wall. Ka then flung Tai into the elephant's water basin, and the trainer struck his head against a wall, reports said.

Tai suffered a broken skull and traumatic brain injury and died on the way to the hospital, reports said.

Tai worked for Dai Nam Joint Stock Company, the owner of the Dai Nam Tourist Center in Hiep An Ward, Thu Dau Mot City, for seven or eight years, reports said. He and Ka had performed in circus acts at the tourist center.

Paint Provocation

Experts said Ka had probably been irritated by the smell of the paint.

Wild characteristics remain in wild animals, even those that have been trained, tamed and in captivity for years, Dr. Pham Viet Lam, director of the Saigon Zoological and Botanic Gardens, Ho Chi Minh City, told vietnambreakingnews.com.

DaiNamTouristComplex
Wikimedia Commons / Nguyenthibeut

The accident occurred in Vietnam's Dai Nam tourism complex, which opened in 2008. The park includes the country's first safari and the largest artificial sea in Southeast Asia.

Male elephants are much more difficult to train and tame than females, and can be set off by strange smells, colors, sounds and noises in their environments, Lam said.

Lam's opinion was seconded by Tran Van Nguyen, deputy head of Binh Duong Province Forest Protection Sub-Department. He told the news outlet that he had "consulted many wildlife experts, and most of them had the same suspicion": that "the elephant detected a strange smell from the can of paint and attacked Tai, who was holding the can."

Dr. Vu Ngoc Thanh, a lecturer of biology at the University of Science under Hanoi National University, also endorsed the theory, saying Ka probably felt threatened by the smell and attacked its source.

“Elephant trunks, or its nose, are very sensitive to smell," Thanh said. "People in the Central Highlands usually use elephants for hunting."

   

Tagged categories: Fatalities; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Maintenance coating work; Paint application; Ventilation

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