Sri Lanka elephant kills senior Buddhist monk

COLOMBO (AFP) - A senior Buddhist monk died in hospital on Saturday (Feb3), a day after being attacked by an elephant at his own temple near the capital, police said.

Bellanwila Wimalarathana Thero, 77, was violently pushed to the ground by the tusker, but the mahout managed to prevent the monk from being gored, police said.

The monk was rushed to hospital but died a day later.

The monk was reportedly attacked by the elephant when he was serving food to the animal, the Colombo Gazette reported.

Wimalarathana Thero obtained a Doctorate in Philosophy in 1980 from the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom. He was a visiting Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London.

He was also the Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayawardhanapura.

He becomes the first high-profile monk to be killed by a tamed elephant in the country.

The elephant was a gift to the temple by the government of Myanmar in mid-2013 and it had been named "Myan Kumara".

Elephants are considered sacred animals protected by law in Sri Lanka. Several Buddhist temples have pet elephants which are paraded at annual pageants.

Despite laws protecting them, about 200 elephants are killed annually by farmers who say they stray onto their land and destroy crops. About 50 people are killed in wild elephant attacks annually.

Sri Lanka's elephant population has dwindled to just over 7,000, according to the latest census, down from an estimated 12,000 in 1900.

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