Six wild elephants have drowned after slipping off a waterfall in north-east Thailand.
Two others were saved after they became stranded while apparently trying to rescue one of those that fell into the current.
The Thai Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said officials in the Khao Yai National Park were alerted to elephants “crying” for help at 3:00am on Saturday.
Hours later they found six bodies at the bottom of the gushing Haew Narok (“Hell’s Abyss”) waterfall.
It is believed two elephants had attempted to save one of those that fell, but they then found themselves trapped on a thin, slippery sliver of rock above the churning waters.
Video showed another of the animals struggling desperately to get back up to where the pair stood.
Park officials tossed food laced with nutritional supplements to the elephants in an attempt to boost their energy and give them the strength to climb back up into the forest.
Rescuers worked through the night to save two of the animals at the edge of the waterfall. (AFP: Thai News Pix)
They later said the two had been rescued but were extremely distressed.
Department spokesperson Sompoch Maneerat said it was unclear what caused the accident.
“No-one knows for sure the real cause of why they fell, but there was heavy rain there last night,” he said.
But local official Badin Chansrikam said it was believed the animals were trying to cross to the other side of the river.
“Probably, one of the smaller elephants might have slid and the adult ones were trying to rescue them but instead, were swept away by the water.”
The waterfall was closed to tourists as the rescue took place.
There are about 300 wild elephants in the national park. (serFacebook: Public Relations Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation)
There are about 300 wild elephants in the national park, which covers more than 2,000 square kilometres of forest and grassland.
It is home to various wild animals, including bears, elephants and gibbons, and is a popular destination for tourists.
Elephants are Thailand’s national animal and live in the wild in parts of the country, but their numbers have dwindled to only a few thousand.
Deforestation has pushed the wild population into closer contact with humans in recent decades and away from their natural habitats.