2 die in elephant charge in western Zimbabwe

/ Source: The Associated Press

Two British tourists died when an elephant charged them in western Zimbabwe, the British Embassy in Harare said Monday. A third injured Briton was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Zimbabwe authorities declined to identify the tourists until their family was notified, but said the dead were a mother and daughter. They said the injured Briton was the husband and father of the two who died.

The family was on a walking safari in the Hwange National Park on Saturday and was accompanied by a guide and a professional hunter.

Authorities said the family was attacked by a bull elephant that was exceptionally aggressive because it was in musk. The guide fired a shot at the elephant but missed.

Police in the western provincial capital of Bulawayo and wildlife authorities reported investigations were under way to see whether the tour group's armed local guides had been negligent, though guides are often taken by surprise by the speed of such attacks.

Elephants are the second most dangerous animal for humans in Zimbabwe, after crocodiles.

According to official figures of reported incidents, elephants charged and trampled 12 people to death in 2005, including villagers trying to protect their crops from the giant herbivores that eat an average 660 pounds of fodder a day.

Poaching, erratic rains and breakdowns of pumping equipment at manmade watering holes have affected elephants - notoriously skittish under stress - in the Hwange park.