A 71-year-old tourist from South Africa has been trampled to death by an elephant while visiting Zimbabwe’s Mana Pool National Park as his son watched on “in full view”.
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said a “tuskless” female elephant charged the tourist and his 41-year-old son as they took a morning walk in the park.
The incident is the second of its kind to occur in a matter of days.
Michael Bernard Walsh, a vet from Cape Town, was described as a “loyal tourist” who visited the park “almost every year” for the past 35 years, Tinashe Farawo, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority said.
The pair left their car briefly and strolled 40 metres away from it when the attack happened.
“Because of age, unfortunately, the old man couldn't escape to the vehicle. His son watched as the elephant killed his father," said Mr Farawo.
He added: “We are extremely concerned because two people have been killed in one week alone,” referring to the fatality in which an anti-poaching coordinator was trampled to death by an elephant in Victoria Falls, Western Zimbabwe while with a conservation group.
Mana Pools is a Unesco World Heritage site renowned for its picturesque setting along the Zambezi River, a hot spot for elephants and other wildlife.
Mr Farawo said 40 people have died in conflicts between wildlife and humans so far this year as Zimbabwe’s national parks and environmental groups attempt to tackle the growing issue.
Like other parks in the region, Mana Pools experiences hot, dry weather at this time of year which can limit access to food and water sources for thousands of lions elephants, lions, buffaloes, zebras, wild dogs, hyenas and other animals.
As a result, the animals make their way into human communities in search of food and livestock.
Mr Farawo has warned of the overpopulation of animals in Zimbabwe, especially elephants. The nation has an estimated 85,000 elephants while neighbouring Botswana has more than 130,000.
“We are now sounding like a broken record, saying that our animals, especially elephants, are overpopulated and they are becoming a danger unto themselves by destroying their own habitat and they are also killing people,” said Mr Farawo.
“We receive distress calls from communities almost every day” he added.
Zimbabwe has pushed to be able to sell its backlog of ivory stock seized from poachers so it can fund conservation and ease congestion in the drought affected parks.
Other African nations, especially Kenya, has opposed the sale of ivory tusks.