(CBS) — The majority of an elephant herd in Thailand died Saturday trying to rescue a calf in the group. When a three-year-old elephant fatally tumbled into the Haew Narok waterfall, also known as “Hell’s Abyss,” five adult elephant tried to rescue it, but drowned in the process.
The tragic accident occurred in Khao Yai national park, a popular tourist destination, which has been closed since park officials discovered what happened.
According to Thai Public Broadcasting Service, officials heard elephants crying around 3 a.m. Saturday. When they searched the area at dusk, they found the baby elephant half-submerged in the first tier of the waterfall and five adult elephants that had drowned in the stream nearby. The two remaining elephants in the group were standing on the edge of the cliff above.
The two surviving elephants have been removed from the area and are being monitored. Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, tweeted that one of the surviving elephants is believed to be the mother of the calf that drowned.
Wiek told the BBC that the two elephants may now struggle to survive as the mammals are known to suffer from emotional grief and they usually rely on larger herds for food and protection.
“It’s like losing half your family,” he told the BBC. “There’s nothing you can do, it’s nature unfortunately.”
The National Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa told Reuters “it was an accident” and that they “often see this happening.”
The BBC reported that a similar incident occurred in 1992, when a herd of eight elephants fell to their death at the same waterfall.