A pygmy elephant has fatally gored Australian tourist Jenna O'Grady Donley in a remote wildlife reserve on Borneo island in Malaysia.
The attack Wednesday at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve was the first known fatal incident of its kind in Sabah state, The Associated Press quoted a governent wildlife spokesman Laurentius Ambu as saying.
Donley, 25, a veterinarian based in Sydney, had reportedly been trekking with a friend and a local guide near a mud volcano when they saw saw the male animal.
The bull may have been startled when the tourists tried to take its photo and charged at them, Ambu told Agence France-Presse.
However, Donley's mother, Liz Donley, described her as "respectful" of wild animals in their environments.
"This is a rare elephant; it was a smaller elephant, and it was a male elephant, and bull elephants are fast, they can move with unpredictability, and they're aggressive and they're protective,'' Donley told the ABC news network Thursday. "This was an animal by itself and they startled it. This is an accident that's happened, a very tragic accident."
She described her only child, who had recently completed a thesis on renal failure in big cats and previously volunteered in Africa to help injured animals at a wildlife sanctuary, as a "very gifted child in the veterinary science field."
Liz Donley she said she wanted people to know of the work her daughter had done to save animals, and that the incident her daughter was involved in was not due to recklessness or foolhardy behavior.
The elephant that charged Donley was believed to be a near-adult about six feet tall. Ambu reportedly advised people to remain at least 160 feet away from wild elephants.
According to the AP, pygmy elephants, a subspecies of mainland Asian elephants, are unique to Borneo island (itself divided among three countries: Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) and "considered endangered, with about 2,000 left in Sabah state."