BEIJING (AP) — A wildlife ranger was trampled to death while observing wild elephants in southwest China, authorities said Saturday.
Yao Zhengyang went missing Thursday afternoon in Mengwang township and his body was found early the next morning, the Xishuangbanna prefectural government said on its microblog.
"According to an initial investigation, death was caused by wild elephants," said the brief posting. Xishuangbanna is in southern Yunnan province, bordering Laos.
Despite China's reputation as a major market for poached African ivory, Xishuangbanna's approximately 300 wild elephants enjoy state-level protection on a level with China's unofficial mascot, the giant panda.
Killing an elephant in China can result in a death sentence. Despite the setting aside of land for elephant habitat, the animals are blamed for damage to crops, and occasional attacks on humans are reported.