New Mexico tourist killed by elephant in Zambia

A tourist from New Mexico has been mauled to death by an elephant in Zambia, the police commissioner who investigated the incident said, making her the second tourist to be killed by an elephant in the Southern African country this year.

The woman who was killed, Juliana G. Letourneau, 64, of Albuquerque, had just visited Victoria Falls, a 350-foot-high waterfall that straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and was returning to a hotel on Wednesday when the group she was traveling with encountered a herd of elephants on the road.

Ausensio Daka, police commissioner for Zambia’s Southern Province, said in a phone interview Saturday that she and other officers had gotten out of their vehicles to observe the animals.

“They stopped to look at the elephants and unfortunately, as they were standing there looking, one of the elephants started charging towards them,” Dhaka said.

Dhaka said Letourneau was taken to a clinic in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, near Livingstone, Zambia, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Police said his injuries included deep wounds to his right shoulder blade and forehead, a fractured left ankle and a slight dent in his chest.

No other injuries were reported from encounters with the elephants.

Letourneau’s brother said Saturday he didn’t know the details of the case and declined to be interviewed. Other relatives could not be reached.

In March of this year, a 79-year-old American woman was on safari in Kafue National Park in west-central Zambia when an elephant charged at the tour group’s vehicle. According to media reports.

But experts say human fatalities from encounters with elephants are rare.

“This is a really freak accident,” Nikhil Advani, a senior director at the World Wildlife Fund, a nonprofit environmental and conservation group, said of the two incidents occurring so close together. “It’s probably a confluence of unfortunate circumstances that led to this.”

The State Department said in a statement on Friday that millions of Americans visit wildlife areas each year and that attacks on tourists by elephants or other wild animals in Zambia are unusual.

Letourneau’s death was first reported by Zambia’s national broadcaster, which said encounters between humans and wild animals in Livingstone, the city where the incident occurred, were on the rise as the country makes progress in protecting wildlife. The worst drought in 40 years.

Climate conditions are exacerbating food insecurity in Zambia, a country with one of the highest rates of malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa. Pushing wild animals into human settlements Reportedly, in search of food and water.

Visit wildlife reserves that cover about one-third of Zambia, as well as numerous lakes, rivers and lush valleys. Playing an important role Of the national economy.

Keeping a distance from elephants is the best way for tourists to stay safe, said Joyce Poole, co-founder and co-director of Elephant Voices, a nonprofit that studies elephant behavior, adding that sometimes there is a “culture of aggression” that stems from areas with a history with elephants, such as Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, which experienced decades of war and poaching in the 20th century.

“The elephants responded in a particular way to the vehicles,” Dr Poole said of the Gorongosa findings. “This behaviour is observed in younger elephants, imitated by younger ones, and then passed down through family members.” Zambia has had a recurring poaching crisis, she noted.

Dr Poole said finding “a reputable company and driver who’s not just driving around taking the best shot” was a good way for visitors to ensure their safety.

Experts say visitors to nature reserves should also exercise caution and admire the animals from a distance.

“Like any wild animal, if you maintain a safe distance, they will not disturb you or try to engage with you,” Dr Advani said.

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