Thai park where 11 elephants died in waterfall strengthens fences

Bangkok (AFP) –


Five more dead elephants have been found at the bottom of a Thai waterfall known as "Hell's Abyss", the environment minister said Wednesday, as rangers reinforced barriers to try to stop the creatures wandering into the dangerous area.

Drones were used to make the latest grim discovery at the waterfall in Khao Yai National Park, bringing the number of elephants who fell to their deaths in the disaster to 11 after six bodies were found over the weekend.

Elephants are known to develop strong social bonds and officials believe a younger one slipped off the cliff, prompting a doomed attempt by the others to reach it.

Safety measures are being beefed up at the park around 120 kilometres (70 miles) northeast of Bangkok, where officials are helping create more water and food sources nearby to discourage other elephants from returning to the deadly spot.

"I have instructed them to reinforce the fences and barricades that they currently have," natural resources and environment minister Varawut Silpa-archa told AFP.

Elephants are Thailand's national animal but numbers in the wild have dwindled to only a few thousand due to deforestation and habitat loss.

"They follow their leaders, and sometimes when the young ones fall, it is only natural that the elder ones will try and reach down and help," Varawut said.

Thailand was hit by drought this year and the elephants may have been looking for new sources of drinking water, but it is also possible they were trying to avoid contact with humans.

Only two survived who did not fall, but found themselves trapped on a thin, slippery sliver of rock above the churning waters.

Rescuers tossed food laced with nutritional supplements in an attempt to boost the animals' energy and give them the strength to climb back up into the forest.

Varawut said the pair was "alive and kicking" and on the road to recovery.

Authorities are also faced with the challenging process of recovering the heavy bodies.

For now the Department of National Parks has installed a net to catch the carcasses when the current pushes them downstream.