Elephant Tramples American Tourist to Death

ByABC News
January 11, 2001, 1:09 PM

D A R   E S   S A L A A M, Tanzania, Jan. 11 -- An American woman was trampled to death by an elephant in a Tanzanian national park after it became enraged by the clicking sounds of her camera, officials said today.

Natalie Waldinger, 24, of Huntington, N.Y., died Sunday in RuahaNational Park in central Tanzania, during a break in her tour as aU.S. Peace Corps volunteer teacher in this East African nation.

Waldinger and an unidentified American woman left their car to photograph the wild animal, said Lota Melamari, chief of the Tanzania National Parks Authority. The pair was traveling with a driver who was not an official guide.

The sound of metallic clicks from their cameras enraged theelephant, which charged the two, Melamari told The AssociatedPress.

Beware of Unpredictable Behavior

Waldinger's friend scrambled to safety only to watch as theelephant trampled the woman to death. Waldinger, whohad been in the country since 1999, died in the park. Her friendwas badly shaken, but uninjured, Melamari said.

"It is a tragic incident, and we extend condolences to membersof her family," Tourism Minister Zakia Meghji said. "People seemto forget that animals in our national parks are wild and are notin a zoo. Contact with tourists has not tamed these animals atall and their behavior remains unpredictable."

Waldinger's body was flown to the United States on Wednesdayafter a memorial service at the residence of the Americanambassador to Tanzania.

"Natalie was an exemplary volunteer, a teacher well loved byher students and a person committed to humanitarian work," GaleMetcalf, U.S. Peace Corps director for Tanzania, said.

A funeral service will be held Tuesday in Huntington.

The deadly attack is the first of its kind in the Ruaha park,which has a large number of elephants, wildlife officials said.

"We have sent a team to investigate why the incident happenedand how similar tragedies could be prevented in the future,"Melamari said.