Spanish tourist killed by elephant 'defending its young' after man left vehicle to take photos

A Spanish tourist has been trampled to death by elephants at a wildlife reserve in South Africa.

The 43-year-old man was targeted by the animals after leaving his vehicle to take photographs at Pilanesberg National Park in the country's North West province, police and local government authorities said on Tuesday.

The matriarch elephant reportedly became "agitated" when she saw the man approaching her three young calves, Pieter Nel, conservation manager for the North West Provincial Parks and Tourism Authority, told Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

He said it is normal for elephants to "defend their young" and tourists visiting Pilanesberg are told they are not allowed to leave their vehicles while driving through the park and must sign forms showing they understand the rules.

"In some cases, people are oblivious to the dangers in the parks," Mr Nel said. "We must remember that you are entering a wild area."

Wildlife experts often warn elephants are especially protective of their young and can react aggressively to a perceived threat.

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The man's fiancee and two other women, all from Johannesburg, who were also in the vehicle were unharmed, police said.

Elephant attacks are common in this region and beyond. Earlier this year two American tourists were killed in separate attacks in the southern African nation of Zambia.

While in India a tourist had her leg broken after being grabbed by an elephant and slammed to the ground in February.

It happened in the main courtyard of the historic Amer Fort in Jaipur, where elephant rides are touted to tourists.