File photo: AP

Johannesburg - The decision to euthanise an elephant that attacked tourists in the Kruger National Park last year was taken after proper consideration, SA National Parks (SANParks) said on Thursday.

“... The decision to euthanise the animal was not taken lightly, but (was) based on the information from our well-experienced rangers' assessment (that) the animal was likely to attack tourist vehicles in the future,” spokesman Reynold Thakhuli said in a statement.

On December 30, the elephant bull attacked Sarah Brooks and her South African-born fiance Jans de Klerk, who live the UK, in their car near the N'waswitshaka waterhole, near the Pretoriuskop rest camp.

They were following the elephant along a dirt road when it turned around, flipped their car over, and pushed it several hundred metres into the bush.

One of the elephant's tusks pierced the back of Brooks's thigh. She was airlifted to the Medi-Clinic hospital in Nelspruit and was discharged on January 6.

The park decided to shoot the elephant, and said it had previously shown aggressive behaviour towards other elephants.

Kruger National Park managing executive Abe Sibiya said in the statement that conflicts would inevitably occur in environments where humans and animals were in close contact.

The park had rules in place to minimise the chances of injury, but some visitors irresponsibly ignored these rules.

“Tourists need to change their behaviour when on self-game drives.... We drive this message in our communication at check-in points, on our brochures and on the permits.”

Sibiya said the people who filmed the attack, footage of which was posted on the internet this week, needed to co-operate with SANParks.

“The law stipulates that evidence such as this should be accompanied by a written statement from eyewitnesses, as the footage cannot be the only permissible evidence in order to sanction any fine against the alleged perpetrators.”

Les Hes, a wildlife guide of 35 years' experience in reading animal behaviour, watched the footage of the attack and concluded that the tourists were at fault by driving too close behind the elephant.

“It is actually very tragic that they had to shoot this elephant because of some stupid tourists.... When watching the video, it's clear that this was definitely the fault of the tourists,” he said.