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Fortunate escape: Gustav Karlsson in a Phuket hospital with his family

Phuket Tourists Tell: Rampaging Elephant Horror

Thursday, January 28, 2010
A SWEDISH couple holidaying on Phuket have given a detailed account of their frightening encounter with a rampaging elephant.

The incident left Gustav Karlsson, 31, with a broken right leg and a badly bruised left heel as the uncontrollable beast uprooted a tree onto a car, flipped a second car down a steep slope, leaving terrified tourists, inclcuding children, huddled in a shed.

Mr Karlsson, who damaged both legs in leaping from the elephant to escape, and with a bone in his right leg exposed, was left lying outside as the angry elephant raged for 20 minutes.

The incident has raised doubts about whether male elephants are suitable for the use of tourists on Phuket. Only by chance were two men riding the elephant.

It could just as easily have been children, Mr Karlsson's wife, Hanna Agnarsson, 31, told Phuketwan at her husband's bedside in Phuket International Hospital yesterday.

''There were 10 friends at a wedding on Sunday,'' Dr Agnarsson said. ''We had been staying for two weeks at the Sunwing in Bang Tao.

''On Monday we decided to go elephant-trekking. At 4pm we left the hotel and when we got to the trekking camp, [in Kalim, north of Patong] we could see the elephant stamping, a little bit crazy.

''But we had promised the children to go on this. Oscar and I went on one and my sister and her four-year-old son went on and luckily, Gustav and my sister's husband on the last one.''

''It was the only male elephant,'' Mr Karlsson said. ''The mahout started to hit the elephant on the head and the elephant started to misbehave.''

''Another mahout fired a slingshot at the elephant,'' Dr Agnarsson said. .''The elephant pushed over a tree then pushed a car.

''We were very very scared that our elephant was going to do the same, so we asked our mahout to turn around and head back.

''We heard screaming, 'We're going to die! We're going to die!' and then we were back at the tour starting point and they locked the door to the hut and told us to be quiet.

''They told us to be quiet because the elephant was coming back. Everyone was so afraid. I asked 'Where is my husband? Where is my husband?' They said, 'We don't know, we don't know.

''Then a Swedish man who was passing came running up. He had taken a movie of it. Then John came up, trying to walk.

''Then we were warned to take cover again. Gustav had been placed on a stretcher, we were told later. Everyone ran inside and left him out there.

''He struggled to stand up. Oh, it was terrible.''

While the elephant was still rampaging, charity foundation workers and police managed to evacuate Mr Karlsson on the stretcher, suffering great pain.

''Gustav said: ''The elephant took down a telephone cable. The mahout lost his prod and he could not control the animal. He called another mahout on his mobile phone and he was very scared.

''I said, 'We must jump off.' It was a long way. We were scared the elephant would eventually turn on us and trample us. So we had to jump.

''Just after, the elephant took a car and pushed it down the hill. I had to stand up because I had a backpack on. I tried to run, but the bone had pushed through my flesh.

''The elephant turned around and came back. The mahout was on the elephant the whole time but could not do anything.''

Mr Karlsson, a truck driver, will be on Phuket for possibly another two weeks. The rest of the party, including the couple's two year old daughter, flew home yesterday.

Son Oscar, 10, stayed on with his parents. Up to the elephant trek, the family group, first time visitors, had thoroughly enjoyed their Phuket holiday.

Dr Agnarsson, who works with children with special needs, said a noticeboard at the camp showed the elephant had been working about nine hours.

She said she thought the elephant was poorly treated, and that the mahouts may have been trying to impress Gustav and John with some extra tricks.

Of the 177 registered elephants on Phuket, only 19 are male. Three males are among seven elephants at the Kalim camp.
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Comments have been disabled for this article.


I have no sympathy for people who pay for animals to be exploited and only feel pity for all the unfortunate creatures that find themselves imprisoned by inept hands that do not care.

Posted by HorseDoctor on January 28, 2010 09:28


Easy answer, take the male elephants off Phuket and make sure they stay off. Can anyone do this, I ask?

Posted by Graham on January 28, 2010 13:16


I have to agree with the Horsedoctor. If more tourists would do a bit of research into how elephants and most other animals are treated in Thailand, they most likely wouldn't support these cruel industries that do almost nothing to actually help the animals.

Elephant camps are are horribly disgusting place for these magnificent beast to be imprisoned. Sorry that someone got hurt, but it's the animals that I feel the most sorry for.

Posted by Dave Williams on February 14, 2010 14:18


Its time these animals were treated with more respect and for tourist to wise up to the current situation that these animals are exploited.

Posted by michael on May 28, 2010 02:15

Wednesday March 29, 2023
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