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Scottish tourist killed by elephant in Thailand

Despite being denounced by multiple animal welfare groups, elephant riding remains a popular activity for tourists visiting Thailand. (File photo)

(CNN)A Scottish tourist on holiday in Koh Samui in Thailand's Surat Thani province has been killed by an elephant.

According to a government official, the 36-year-old man was riding the male elephant as part of a trekking tour with his daughter when the animal suddenly got angry and shook the pair and their mahout (trainer) from its back.
The man was then trampled on and gored to death by the elephant's tusks.
    His 16 year-old daughter suffered minor injuries and is recovering in hospital.
    Wongsiri Promchana, governor of Surat Thani, told CNN police are now investigating the trek operator, Island Safari Tour, which is legally registered to offer elephant treks.
    "Police have yet to press charges on anyone," he said.
    "They are now looking into whether the incident was an accident or could have been prevented."
    A representative of Island Safari Tour confirmed to CNN that one person died and another was injured on Monday during one of its treks and has launched an internal investigation.
    A British Embassy spokesperson said: "We are offering support to the family of a British national who has sadly died following an incident in Koh Samui, Thailand, and are in touch with the local authorities to seek further information."

    A preventable incident?

    Thai media reports quote witnesses as saying the elephant that killed the tourist showed signs of being in musth -- a period when bull elephants experience a rise in testosterone and can exhibit highly aggressive behavior.
    Governor Promchana said veterinarians are now investigating whether that was the case.
    John Roberts, director of elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, which works to improve the welfare of Southeast Asia's captive elephants, told CNN that while he was not familiar with the company involved in the tourist's death, failures to recognize and act on an animal's cues are widespread in the elephant trekking industry.
    "If an elephant is coming into musth, it should have been relaxing somewhere in the forest as they can become very aggressive," he said.
    "It's symptomatic of the situation we have with elephants in inappropriate places. If you have lots of males you need lots of space."
    He added that sometimes the mahout fails to notice the elephant is in musth or a manager tells them to keep working.
    "If you don't spot the signs they can become highly dangerous," he said.
    Koh Samui, which is about 225 square kilometers, has five elephant camps, with a total elephant population of 63.
    Governor Promchana said provincial officials will meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss the tourist's death and whether Koh Samui's elephant population is too high.