Elephants attack and kill two British nationals in Zimbabwe

Two British tourists died when an elephant charged them in western Zimbabwe, the British embassy in Harare said Monday. A third injured Briton was hospitalized with serious injuries.

The identities of the tourists was being withheld until their families were informed. No further details were made available.

The Britons were on a game viewing trip in the Hwange National Park on Saturday.

Police in the western provincial capital of Bulawayo and wildlife authorities reported investigations were under way to see whether the tour group's armed local guides had been negligent, though guides are often taken by surprise by the speed of such attacks.

Last year, Gianpaolo Tarabini, husband of Italian fashion designer Anna Molinari, was killed in an elephant attack in Zimbabwe.

Elephants are the second most dangerous animal for humans in Zimbabwe, after crocodiles.

According to official figures of reported incidents, in 2005 elephants charged and trampled 12 people to death, including villagers trying to protect their crops from the giant herbivores that eat an average 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of fodder a day.

Other incidents go unreported in remote areas. No tally is available for last year.

Conservation groups say the elephant population in the western Hwange park, the nation's largest nature preserve, has soared in the absence of regular culling measures to control the population and avert further damage to the habitat of elephant herds foraging for diminishing food sources, reports AP.

Poaching, erratic rains and breakdowns of pumping equipment at manmade watering holes have affected elephants - notoriously skittish under stress - in the Hwange park.

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