Phlai Ekasit, the elephant famous for many international movie roles including the “Ong Bak” series with Tony Jaa, hit his mahout (“keeper”) with his trunk yesterday morning, killing him instantly.
Somsak Riangngern, 55, had been handling the 32-year-old, 10,000 pound elephant for more than a decade, and bystanders said he was doing nothing more than feeding his charge a cluster of bananas in the zoo while walking him to his bathing area when the attack happened, reported Thai PBS.
Without warning, allege eyewitnesses, the famed pachyderm turned and hit Somsak with his trunk many times. The man died immediately while his wife, Jampa, watched.
Later, zoo staff were able to calm the elephant down but they are not yet sure what the cause was though it is suspected it is because he was in heat. Male elephants are known to become more aggressive when they are actively looking to mate.
The mahout’s body will be taken to his hometown in Surin province for funeral rites.
His wife spoke to the press and said that the elephant was usually sweet and gentle and much loved by her husband and tourists, who loved to feed him and take pictures with him.
The elephant, who had been performing in elephant shows at the zoo, has been taken out of the lineup until he is assessed by veterinarians.