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Elephants' "instinct" saves tourists

Elephant handlers in tsunami-hit Thailand said they owed their lives to their animals' "sixth sense", which also saved five Japanese tourists from the deadly waves.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, Khao Lak (thailand)
PUBLISHED ON JAN 11, 2005 12:51 PM IST

'Elephant handlers in this tsunami devastated resort area said Monday they owed their lives to their animals' sixth sense, which also saved five Japanese tourists from the deadly waves.

"I was surprised to see my elephant and the others scream since early morning on the day the waves hit," Kirtsada Salangam, 20, told AFP, patting the trunk of his cherished elephant Thongdaeng, one of eight pachyderms at the small tourist ride camp.

"The elephants would not obey us and kept looking to the sea. I also noticed the birds were flying irregularly but I didn't have any idea that a huge tragedy was about to happen," he said.

It was not until the elephants began breaking their leg chains and stampeding towards the hills that the handlers, known as mahouts, as well as a family of five Japanese tourists began to panic and follow them to higher ground.

"As we ran to the mountain I turned to see the wave hit the shore and sweep 18-wheeled trucks and people into the sea. It was terrifying," he said, feeding Thongdaeng the leaves of pineapple palms, which is all the animals have had to live on since the tourists fled or were taken by the waves.

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