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South Africa: Spanish tourist trampled by elephant herd

Kieran Burke
July 9, 2024

Authorities said the man disembarked from his car in the Pilanesberg National Park in the North West province. Visitors are warned not to leave their vehicles.

An elephant pictured at Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa
Local authorities said the Spanish national approached a breeding herd of elephants on foot after which he was trampledImage: Günter Lenz/imageBROKER/picture alliance

A tourist from Spain had been trampled to death by an elephant in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park in the North West Province.

"Reports suggest that the man stopped the vehicle, alighted and went closer to the elephants to take pictures," police spokesman Sabata Mokgwabone said on Tuesday.

What local authorities say happened

The North West Parks and Tourism Board said in a statement that the Spanish national entered the park along with three others in a vehicle they were traveling in and came upon a breeding herd of elephants.

"According to eyewitnesses, the man decided to alight from the vehicle and approach the elephants on foot, taking pictures," said acting Chief Conservation Officer Pieter Nel.

"Despite warnings from his fellow passengers and occupants from two other vehicles that were at the sighting, he unfortunately did not heed their warnings."

Nel said that he was charged by an adult elephant cow, but was unable to get away. He was then trampled by the herd.

Thami Matshego, chief executive officer of the North West Parks and Tourism Board, told South African news outlet, Netwerk24:

"Tourists are constantly reminded about the importance of staying inside their vehicles when visiting the park, and to keep a good distance between animals and their vehicles and give animals a chance to move freely, and to only get out of vehicles in safely designated areas."

The matter has been handed to the South African Police Service for further investigation.

Löwen (Panthera leo) auf Nationalparkstraße mit Autos, Pilanesberg Nationalpark, Südafrika
Image: Günter Lenz/imageBROKER/picture alliance

Pilanesberg National Park home to 'Big Five'

Visitors to the Pilanesberg National Park can encounter any of South Africa's so-called "Big Five"— those being, lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino.

The animals are wild and freely roam the park which warns visitors not to leave vehicles once inside the park.

Deaths due to wild animals are not uncommon in the region. In 2021 a suspected poacher was killed by elephants in South Africa's world famous Kruger National Park.

Each year dozens of people are killed and injured by wild animals — mostly elephants — in neighboring Zimbabwe, according to local authorities.

Interview with a ranger in a South African national park

AFP material was used in this report.

Edited by: Louis Oelofse