Elephants can be seen in the wild at several game reserves in South Africa - and SPCA officials have reiterated that message after the trampling of a handler at a Knysna elephant park.

Johannesburg - A handler at the Knysna Elephant Park was trampled by an elephant at the weekend, the park said on Monday.

“Arnold Ndzwanana is in a stable condition. He had the lower part of his leg amputated last night (Sunday),” spokesperson Greg Vogt said.

He said the incident occurred on Saturday afternoon when Ndzwanana, 32, was moving four bull elephants, including a 22-year-old elephant named Harry, to an orchard for their rest time and lunch.

“There was a shift change and usually they are very keen to go there. The three other bulls were being moved and Arnold called out ‘Harry move up', which is a command for him to move forward,” Vogt said.

“At that point Harry turned around and attacked him. Four handlers managed to stand in front of Harry and distract him.”

The park had conducted a debriefing and counselling session for the handlers, who were traumatised.

“We are starting to map out what actually happened... There are so many possible triggers... It could have been Arnold's position, his aftershave... We just don't know at this stage,” Vogt said.

The National Council of SPCAs on Monday said the incident reiterated why animals should be left in the wild and not removed from their natural environments “for use in the entertainment sector”.

“Wild animals will always remain wild and will eventually retaliate,” spokesperson Vonny Strachan said in a statement.

She said there had been numerous attacks on handlers by captive elephants in the country as well as worldwide.

“We urge the public not to support facilities that use animals for financial gain and entertainment,” she said.

“The public should rather enjoy the immense and diverse wildlife this country possesses in their natural environments.” - Sapa