PHNOM PENH, Wednesday 16 February 2011 (AFP) - An elephant that killed its owner and then went on a 10-day rampage in the Cambodian countryside before being taken in by an animal rescue centre has died unexpectedly, officials said Wednesday.
The five-tonne bull elephant, named Sambo, terrorised villagers in southwest Cambodia and destroyed their crops before he was subdued by wildlife workers in December and moved to the centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
For safety reasons, Sambo had restraints placed on his front legs and was kept away from other elephants.
Nhek Rattanak Pich, director of the rescue centre, told AFP the exact cause of death was still unclear. He added that Sambo "was a danger to people" until the very last day.
The Wildlife Alliance, an international organisation whose specialist was called in to treat Sambo over the weekend after he fell ill, said the animal had been sick in recent weeks and apparently reacted badly to sedation administered by government veterinarians to treat a small leg wound.
It said he was too weak to stand up despite efforts to get him back on his feet with the help of a crane.
Elephants that lie down for extended periods "risk severe damage to their internal organs", the group said. "Sambo was too weak to stand under his own power."
The Asian elephant is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).