Eleven elephants die after falling down a waterfall trying to rescue a calf

The number of elephants that died in a national park in Thailand trying to save a baby elephant from drowning has risen to 11, officials said. Pictured, a drone was used to locate the bodies. (Reuters)

Eleven wild elephants have died after plunging from the top of a waterfall in Thailand, officials have said.

Heartbreaking images show the lifeless carcasses of the animals, which had been attempting to rescue a three-year-old calf after it had slipped into a ravine while the herd was making its way across a clifftop river.

Only two elephants in the herd are known to have survived the 200-metre (656.17-foot) fall in Thailand’s mountainous northeast on Saturday, officials said.

The bodies of five elephants were spotted by drone near the notorious fall known as Haew Narok (Hell's Fall) in Khao Yai National Park, it was announced on Tuesday, following the discovery of six others at the weekend.

The elephants were trying to cross the river when a strong current swept the young elephant over the edge of the waterfall, officials at the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said.

Wildlife officials sent small drones into the area to investigate because the terrain is too rough for hiking, Nattapong Sirichanam, governor of Nakhorn Nayok province, told reporters on Tuesday.

“We flew drones at a height of 15 metres above the ground as we can’t walk in to confirm the deaths,” he said.

Analysis of the footage identified the bodies of five more elephants in addition to the six originally reported after the accident.

“We assume that there were 13 elephants in this herd and two of them survived. We are 100 per cent confident that two of them are alive as the officials saw them going out for food around the area of Haew Narok falls,” Mr Sirichanam said.

Heartbreaking: Thai authorities shared an image of one survivor attempting to revive its companion. (Reuters)

Officials heard elephant cries coming from the waterfall at about 3am on Saturday and brought the army in at dawn to search for footprints and locate them.

They discovered a baby elephant, which drowned in the first tier of the waterfall as two male elephants stood on the edge of the cliff above.

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After making their way down the slippery ravine path, park officials discovered six adult elephants that had drowned.

Rangers managed to lead the two surviving elephants, who were trying to reach the calf, from the ravine and said they will monitor their condition throughout the week.

Thailand has only about 3,500 to 3,700 wild elephants left nationwide, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

The 772 square mile Kao Yai National Park is believed to have around 300 wild elephants as well as other wildlife.

Saturday’s accident is a setback to wildlife conservation in Thailand, and happened at the same spot as a similar incident in 1992 that killed eight elephants.

Now that two major accidents have occurred there, Mr Sirichanam said conservation officials are talking about building walkways over the falls or other solutions.

“We will try to find a way to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again,” he said.

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