A rampaging elephant that killed its handler was shot dead by cops with an AK-47 before conservationists could arrive and reportedly took two hours to die while his mate wept.

The animal known as Atork killed his handler Choeung Team in Cambodia’s eastern Mondulkiri province.

Choeung Team had removed the shackles from Atork and his female partner Me Krapum to allow tourists to take photos.

After Atork killed Choeung Team, the pair of elephants fled into the woods.

They were next seen near a village called Romnea, two days later.

Atork reportedly went on the rampage, chasing people, destroying six homes and even damaging a police van that arrived.

Police said they feared he would kill again and so could not wait for wildlife experts to arrive from the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre.

The decision to kill Atork came from Provincial Governor Svay Sam Eang.

He said: "What if it killed a villager? Then who would take responsibility for that?"

Police fired three shots from an AK-47 rifle at Atork, hitting the 60-year-old elephant in the head, heart and leg.

He reportedly took two hours two die, while his mate Me Krapum wept.

Local police chief Pech Sotheary said: "We did not want to kill it, but we had no choice. It troubled the villagers at night and was not afraid of our warning shots."

Water cannon and fireworks had also been used to scare Atork away, but to no avail as he continued his aggressive behaviour.

Me Krapum’s handler Thing Saom said: "She stood near Atork when he was killed and tears kept falling down. Me and my relatives decided to take her home since we were afraid she might become fierce, like Atork."

Conservationist Nheum Thy said red tape had delayed his arrival at the scene.

He said: "If there is no permission, how can we arrange the technical equipment, and who is going to take the responsibility when something goes wrong?"

Thing Saom added that local authorities should be equipped with tranquilisers themselves instead of having to wait for conservation workers to get to the scene of an elephant emergency, often from hours away.

Choeung Team’s widow Tri Yi and her family were allowed to keep Atork’s tusks.

Her family is now liable for the damage caused by Atork.

She added: "We also need to pay for rituals to chase away the bad luck for each house owner. At least one pig and two chickens, plus three jars of wine, will have to be given as offerings."

Atork was the family’s most valuable asset, bringing in income from tourists as well as helping with farm work.

Atork and Choeung Team were buried near each other, locals said.


Author: Gabriel Zamfir

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