Jenna Donley, 26, a Sydney-based veterinarian, was attacked by an elephant yesterday (December 6) according to Malaysia's The Star, when the animal was apparently startled by the sounds of a camera's shutter and flash. Witnesses reported that Ms. Donley could not escape in time from the elephant, although her female friend and guide were able to avoid being attacked in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Sabah.
The three actually had been visiting a nearby volcano when they decided to take a wildlife trail on their way back to the resort. When they saw a single bull elephant, Donley wanted to take photographs of it, but apparently startled it instead, at which point the animal charged.
COMMENT: As I have said in other filings where wild animals in game parks and reserves have attacked tourists, such animals are not only wild, but unpredictable and dangerous.
In photo trips I've made in Asia and Africa, tour operators have always protected us in viewing trucks where there not only is physical protection, but the ability to escape quickly if necessary. In Dr. Donley's case, there apparently was no safety plan.
According to the guide, Donley, her friend and the guide had stopped as close as ten meters to the elephant when the animal charged, leaving them few options. For the benefit of our readers, this is NOT a safe way of seeing, photographing and enjoying the sight of wild animals.
Donley did not escape being gored as she was physically much closer to the elephant than were her friend and the guide, the latter of whom should have known the risk involved.
Another consideration for our readers who are interested in photographing wildlife, purchase a camera with a less audible shutter, one with 12x-15x zoom capability or contemplate a single-lens reflex digital camera with a variable zoom lens that can reach out to 300-400mm.