Five elephants have been found dead at the foot of a waterfall and are thought to have died while trying to save their baby which had fallen over the edge.

Thailand’s Khao Yai National Park is it’s third largest national park and is home to the falls, known locally as Haew Narok (Hell’s Fall).

Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) explained that officials were called in the early hours of Saturday morning after a herd of elephants were found blocking a road near the waterfall.

Later the baby elephant was spotted at the foot of the waterfall while the five other dead animals were seen nearby, BBC News report.

Two living elephants were reportedly also seen near a cliff edge, though Thai authorities are attempting to move them.

Haew Narok, a popular tourist attraction is made up of three drops totalling over 150m in height and has been closed following the tragic deaths of the elephants.

Thanya Netithamkul, chief of the DNP, told local media that park rangers heard elephants crying in the creek leading to the waterfall on Saturday morning, xinhuanews reports.

Asian Elephant Herd Playing In Water – Pixabay

She explained:

Park officials rushed to the scene to find a baby elephant aged around three years drowned on the top layer of the waterfall. They also noticed two adult elephants, which were frantically trying to advance into the flowing water to save their young, looking extremely exhausted.

I have ordered the national park to close the area to tourists, and will find ways to prevent such accidents from happening again in the future.

Elephants form extremely close family bonds and heavily rely on each other. Edwin Wiek, the founder of Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand, said the elephants left alive would have difficulty surviving.

The incident could also take an emotional toll on the animals as they have been known to display signs of grief.

Speaking to the BBC, he said:

It’s like losing half your family.

There’s nothing you can do, it’s nature unfortunately.

This isn’t the first incident of its kind to take place at Haew Narok. In 1992, a herd of eight elephants all died after falling over the cliff.