11 elephants died in plunge from waterfall while trying to save drowned calf

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY

At least 11 wild elephants died after plunging from a waterfall in a national park in Thailand, wildlife officials said Tuesday.

Five elephant carcasses were confirmed Tuesday from drone cameras days after six elephants were first spotted, said Sompote Maneerat, spokesman for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department.

The animals were found at Haew Narok – Ravine of Hell – waterfall in Khao Yai National Park.

Park officials said five adult elephants and a calf were found at the waterfall Saturday. Officials said the baby elephant drowned and the five adults, found in a ravine below the baby, fell trying to reach it.

Elephants are stuck Oct. 5 on a small cliff at a waterfall at Khao Yai National Park in central Thailand.

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The five additional elephants confirmed Tuesday were from the same herd, and only two elephants from the herd survived the incident, said Nattapong Sirichanam, governor of Nakhon Nayok province, according to Reuters.

The two surviving elephants had been trapped on a cliff above the baby elephant, park officials said.

A similar incident killed eight elephants at the same waterfall in 1992, and Sompote said the 11th death is the highest number of elephants to die in a single incident in Khao Yai.

According to Reuters, 3,500 to 3,700 wild elephants remain in Thailand. The park is home to about 300 elephants, the news agency reported.

Asian elephants are classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The surviving elephants will probably experience grief. When two elephants died this year at an Indianapolis zoo, officials confirmed that the rest of the herd reacted emotionally.

"We know that elephants grieve. They are intensely social," Indianapolis Zoo President Rob Shumaker said.

Contributing: Joel Shannon, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

 Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Elephants in Thailand Khao Yai park die trying to save drowned calf