Elephant herd tramples car after baby struck along Malaysian highway

A herd of wild elephants in Malaysia trampled on a car traveling along a major highway after it struck a baby in their group, local authorities said Monday.

The car, a white Perodua Axia, was being driven by a 48-year-old man, along with his wife and son, 23, according to a statement issued by police in Gerik, in the Malay Peninsula.

The family of three were driving on a major highway from the island of Penang to the northeastern coastal state of Terengganu at around 7.35 p.m. local time on Sunday, when it crashed into the elephant calf.

It had been drizzling and foggy at that time, Gerik Police added, and the car was “negotiating a left bend on the highway” when it hit the baby elephant.

“The car slammed into the young elephant that was walking on the road with the herd,” said Zulkifli Mahmood, Chief Superintendent at Gerik District Police. The calf fell to the ground upon impact, he added.

“Seeing this, the other (five) elephants rushed towards the car and started trampling it.”

The herd then left the area after the calf “got back up,” Mahmood said.

Gerik Police did not specify if the three family members had been inside the car during the incident but no deaths or serious injuries were reported in the police statement.

Photos provided showed extensive damage to the front and sides of the white vehicle, with its side doors caved in. All windows were also smashed.

Authorities did not provide further updates about the condition of the elephant baby.

An elephant in Borneo. - Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images/File
An elephant in Borneo. - Sylvain CORDIER/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images/File

Elephant-human encounters

As a result of Malaysia’s rapid development of highways, wild elephants across the peninsula have lost large amounts of forest cover, forcing many to venture out to roads to find food, conservationists say.

In the latest accident, Gerik police warned drivers to exercise more caution on highways as herds of elephants regularly roam the area.

Signs warning drivers of elephant crossings are also put up along many highways, particularly in the country’s north but accidents have still occured.

In 2017, a baby elephant was discovered dead on the side of a highway, apparently killed by a car believed to have been speeding, elephant conservation group Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants (MEME) said at the time.

Other elephant encounters are also reported on several highways.

In May 2022, a lone adult elephant was spotted walking along a highway also in the Gerik area. Videos shared on social media showed the elephant ambling past bewildered drivers.

In 2020, a distressed adult elephant trampled on a car that had been traveling on the same highway as the latest incident. The elephant was believed to have panicked after several vehicles started honking at it, local authorities said at the time.

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