Man recounts 21-day ordeal, lost and fleeing elephants

Thongsa Wanthumma, 43, uses a crutch to help him walk at his home in Kabin Buri district, Prachin Buri, on Wednesday, as he tells the story of 21 days fleeing elephants, lost in a vast expanse of rubber and eucalyptus plantations. (Photo: Manit anubboon)

PRACHIN BURI: A missing man has staggered exhausted and starving out of a vast area of eucalyptus and rubber plantations with an incredible story of having spent 21 days lost and fleeing attacks by wild elephants.

Thongsa Wanthumma, 43, was back at his home in Ban Wang Thong village in tambon Wang Tha Chang of Kabin Buri district on Wednesday.

He appeared totally worn out by his proclaimed ordeal and was using a wooden crutch because, he said, his legs were weak after weeks of living on leaves and running for his life from herds of elephants.

Mr Thongsa had gone missing on Dec 22. Five days later police found his motorcycle abandoned in the middle of a rubber plantation, about 10 kilometres from the eucalyptus plantation where he worked as a timber cutter, and eight kilometres from the house where he lived with his mother.

Mr Thongsa said on Wednesday that on Dec 22 he was riding his motorcycle back home along a trail deep in a eucalyptus plantation in tambon Tha Kra Dan of Chachoengsao's Sanam Chai Khet district, near his village.

He found himself confronted by a big herd of wild elephants. He abandoned his motorcycle and fled, panicked into the rubber and eucalyptus plantations.

Later, he could not find his way back out. The plantations spread over an area of about 20,000 rai. The area was full of wild elephants and he had been trying to avoid them and find his way home ever since.

He said he saw elephant herds roaming there every day. They came out of Khao Ang Rue Nai Wildlife Sanctuary in search of food.

"In the plantations I had no food. I survived by eating sour leaves and drank from ponds and irrigation canals. At night I slept on leaves that I gathered to keep myself warm," Mr Thongsa said.

All the time he was lost he prayed for a blessing from holy spirits and his parents so that he could find his way safely out of the trees, he said.

Mr Thongsa finally emerged from the plantations on Tuesday morning. He met a neighbour and got a ride to a relative's house.

One of his neighbours said that when they were searching for him they found the remains of two people apparently killed by wild elephants.

The victims' clothes were in tatters and the mutilated bodies unidentifiable and covered with leaves and soil, which was what wild elephants did after killing humans, she said, but asked not to be named.

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