A 60-year-old bull male named Atork is said to have trampled his 'owner' to death after wandering into the jungle, likely in pursuit of freedom.
Elephants are incredibly intelligent creatures. With the largest brain of any land mammal and three times as many neurons as humans, it makes sense that the animals can identify up to six languages, understand human body language, show empathy, and remember events and locations for years after they occurred. This knowledge might also make sense of why an elephant that tasted freedom for the first time in years trampled its ‘owner’ to death on its attempt to escape.
Daily Mail reports that a 60-year-old bull elephant named Atork recently had his chains released when a group of tourists in Cambodia begged his owner, 47-year-old Choeung Team, to do so. They wanted to take a more ‘natural’ group photo and didn’t like how Atork appeared in chains.
After the photo was captured and the group settled down to luck, Atork started wandering away into the jungle, away from the village where it had been kept. Because elephants are seen as property and a source of income in many Asian countries, Team rushed off after Atork. Later, villagers found his body trampled. According to the Phnom Penh Post, Atork was found near his owner’s body.
The guide’s nephew, Saroeun Naro, insists Atork used his trunk to beat and trample his uncle.
“I don’t know what the problem with Atork was. Maybe he needed a female elephant or he was angry with my uncle.”
According to local chief Long Vibol, the villagers had used six elephants in recent years to show tourists around a typical ethnic village. Police officer Norng Chanthea told the press that Atork was among others commonly used to transport tourists around the area. According to officer Chanthea, “The owner was killed by his elephant when it was in [a] rut,” referring to a natural hormonal surge. However, more information is needed to discern the true cause of death and whether or not Atork was responsible, though it seems likely.
At present, the elephant is still on the loose. Senior police officer Touch Gun says villages should be concerned about their safety until Atork is caught. It is unknown whether or not the villagers will allow Atork to live after Team’s death, or if he will be rendered back into captivity. Regardless, life as a slave is no life for any animal. Learn more about the detriments of the elephant tourism industry here.
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news