Elephant Kills Tourist Who Was Camping at Undesignated Site

A 59-year-old Australian man was reportedly killed by an elephant in southwest Africa this week while camping with a group of tourists, government officials have said.

The Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) said the incident occurred yesterday morning at the Huab River in the Kunene region. An investigation into the death, which remains ongoing, was launched in collaboration with law enforcement, Vanguard News reported.

"This is a very unfortunate incident and highly regrettable," officials said, noting a probe will seek to determine if the excursion was led by a tour guide.

The investigation has indicated that the tourists' chosen camping spot was unusual.

"It has been established that the area in which the group of tourists were camping is not a designated camping site. [The joint] investigation into the matter continues," the MET statement said. Additional details about the case were not immediately available.

A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told The Sydney Morning Herald that government officials were still working to confirm the report, but stressed: "We stand ready to offer consular assistance to any Australian citizen should they request it."

On Facebook, the Namibia tourism agency's account paid respects to the victim, who was not named, while urging all tourists to abide by safety guidelines about local wildlife.

It wrote: "The ministry wishes to reiterate our call to our very welcome tourists to always be cautious and adhere to the rules and regulations put in place for their safety. Finally, we wish to express our sincere condolences to the bereaved family and friends of the deceased."

There are approximately 24,000 elephants in Namibia, according to the country's President Hage Geingob, who released fresh statistics while talking up conservation efforts in May this year.

Geingob said: "Namibia's conservation model has enabled expansion of the elephant population from just over 7,500 in 1995 to 24,000 at present." He said the population still faces threats, such as loss of habitat due to drought as well as ongoing human-elephant conflicts in the region.

Citing the Namibia tourism website, ABC reported the country is home to one of the two known groups of desert-adapted elephants found across the world. The other group is found in Mali.

"These elephants are very similar to the African bush elephant, but are a bit smaller with larger feet and longer legs than their Savannah dwelling cousins," the tourism website says.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, African elephants are the world's largest land animals, but can be extremely dangerous when they come in contact with humans, resulting in dozens of injuries and deaths every year. It explains: "In India, over 100 people are killed by elephants each year, and over 200 people have been killed in Kenya over the last 7 years."

An elephant stands in one of the channel of the wildlife reach Okavango Delta near the Nxaraga village in the outskirt of Maun, on 28 September 2019. MONIRUL BHUIYAN/AFP/Getty