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Thai park's jumbo mess

Recent viral images of elephants attacking cars in Thailand have captured worldwide attention and park officials say aggressive pachyderms are a serious problem, especially during mating season.

A charging two-tonne pachyderm would frighten almost anyone, and drivers in central Thailand this week were no exception.

Images and videos from Khao Yai National Park of unruly young male elephants assaulting vehicles in four separate incidents have gone viral on the Internet.

One showed an elephant displaying amorous affection for a car.

For Mr Kanchit Srinoppawan, head of Khao Yai, and his staff, dealing with unruly elephants is an annual challenge. Each year, there are reports of elephants rampaging.

"The cold season coincides with the mating season. Young bull elephants are cast out from their herd and many of them become more aggressive," he said.

Khao Yai has at least 300 wild elephants.

Problems arise when tourists do not follow park protocols and either stop their cars to take photos or sound their horns at the elephants, causing them to become aggressive, Mr Kanchit was quoted as saying.

He told the Bangkok Post that there have been four elephant attacks since the new year.

In the first three incidents, elephants attacked tourists' vehicles. In one case, elephants attacked because a tourist honked at them.

He suggested that tourists avoid turning off their cars, sounding their horns or flashing their headlights while confronting elephants. Camera flashes were also discouraged.

Mr Edwin Wiek, head of the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, said there were cases when aggravated elephants killed tourists.

He said that the main problem in most elephant-related incidents in the country's national parks is a lack of education and enforcement.

Tourists visiting national parks are rarely given a proper briefing on how to deal with wild animals.

According to Mr Kanchit, panicking is the worst thing you can do.

"The first thing you have to do is to keep calm," he told German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Mr Sermpan Saliman, the chief of Chachoengsao's Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary, said confrontations between wild elephants and locals living near the eastern forest complex are likely to worsen due to droughts and food shortages in the deep forest.

Meetings with locals were held to tell them about possible confrontations and to suggest how to deal with elephants to avoid unnecessary harm to the wildlife.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pressed his Cabinet to do more to safeguard the species.

But for activists like Mr Wiek, the solution to the problem is clear.

He said: "It would be easier to stop people taking shortcuts through the national parks. It is only 25 to 30km more to go around Khao Yai and we would better protect the wildlife."