A woman has been slammed as "ignorant" by animal advocates after having her arm crushed by an elephant in Bali.
Beth Bogar, from the US, was on a "dream" vacation with her husband Les when it came to a "screaming halt" at the Mason Elephant Park and Lodge in in Ubud. The New Hampshire couple had just ridden an elephant in the water, claiming the trainer then asked them if they wanted to pose next to it for a photo.
The trainer — who has known the elephant for 24 years — instructed Ms Bogar to put her hand around its trunk. "I just feel as though he was guiding me and he let my arm get too close to his mouth, and I didn't know how close too close was," she told local TV station WMUR.
Woman claims elephant broke her arm
Moment's later she claimed her arm was "pushed" into the elephants mouth and she "couldn't get [it] out". "I could just hear cracking, and I started to panic,” she tearfully recalled. “It was like a suction, pushed into his mouth."
Showing her plastered arm after being rushed to emergency surgery, Ms Bogar revealed it would be "a long road" to recovery. "This is my incision. The doctor was able to go in. There are plates, there are screws, and everything is put back together," she said.
Ms Bogar does not blame the elephant but is urging others to be careful. "In a split second your entire trip can really be changed, and not just your trip but your life," she told the station.
Sanctuary owner disputes tourist's version of events
Nigel Mason — the owner of the elephant park — has disputed the woman's version of events, calling it a "freak accident". "In 26 years this has never happened before," he told Yahoo News Australia. He also stressed it was "physically impossible" for an elephant to bite someone.
"Their teeth are just for grinding not biting and are at the back," he said. "The elephant swung its head and hit her arm with its tusk and caused a fracture in her arm."
When asked whether a trainer instructed Ms Bogar to pose with her arm around the elephant's trunk, Mr Mason rejected the claim.
"His [the trainer's] instruction was to lean her arm on the elephant while she stood next to it. This procedure is safe and has been done hundreds and thousands of times in the last 26 years of operation with no accidents," he said. "That's why guests have to sign a waiver, knowing there is a certain of danger with an adventurous activity."
Contrary to statements made by the woman, the owner also claimed the sanctuary paid Ms Bogar's medical expenses in full after "rushing her up to the hospital".
Elephant advocates blame woman for injury
Following the incident, activists took to social media to bitterly blast the tourist for engaging in a "cruel" act.
"The ignorance of Beth Bogar who was injured by an elephant after visiting the notoriously cruel 'Masons Lodge' in Bali," one person commented on the Elephant Advocate Facebook group. "Not once has this woman stopped to consider the lives these poor elephants are forced to lead!"
"You survived and are home free. That elephant has a continued long life of service," another person wrote. "Sounds like the elephant pushed her arm with its trunk? The trunk is incredibly powerful and no one should be anywhere near it," a third person said.
Mr Mason previously told Yahoo News Australia he agrees methods used to train elephants in some other wildlife parks are cruel but maintains his sanctuary instead adopts a no-punishment approach. His park houses critically endangered Sumatran elephants, which were rescued after losing their habitat to deforestation.
Why are wild animal experiences controversial?
Australian travel company Flight Centre maintains a "look but don't touch approach" to exotic animal encounters it allows on its website — so as not to stress the animals — while Booking.com, TripAdvisor and Expedia also have restrictions.
In a statement, World Animal Protection Australia said the incident at Mason Elephant Lodge should "serve as a stark reminder".
"Elephants are wild animals, not playthings or photo props, and should not be treated as such."
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