A Thai tourist came face to face with a charging elephant and stopped it with a wave of his hand.
Tor Bowling, 27, was visiting Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary, northern Thailand when the elephant rushed towards him out of the dense forest.
But instead of understandably screaming and running away, Mr. Bowling simply raised his hand to stop the animal, which turned around and walked away.
A video of Mr. Bowling’s bravery has now been viewed millions of times online.
Mr. Bowling, an engineer from Chonburi, near Bangkok, said that he quit his job out of boredom and spent a month traveling around the country while searching for a new direction in life.
It was the afternoon when he was walking along a dirt road in Phu Luang with his friend Navee Kittisak on their way back to civilization after seeing dinosaur footprints.
The reserve is home to about a hundred wild Asian elephants, cared for by the Thai royal family-sponsored Elephants Rehabilitation Project.
Mr. Bowling was visiting in the local summer when Phu Luang blooms with clusters of colorful dendrobiums, wild white orchids, and white and red rhododendrons.
Mr. Bowling said that when he first saw the elephant, a moment not in the clip, he was stunned and stared at it for a long time.
He tried to get out of the way, but the elephant watched his every move, he said. Then the beast charged.
Mr. Bowling admitted that he was afraid. He reached out towards the animal was just his first reaction – a completely unprepared response.
“But I’m sure,” he said. ‘It didn’t want to hurt me.’ And it really didn’t, as the video shows, just inches from Mr. Bowling’s outstretched arm, the elephant stopped, gave a loud shriek, and turned away.
As it went into the bushes, Mr. Bowling showed how much he maintained his composure by holding up his camera and snapping a few pictures of the retreating animal for his photo album.
He then turned to Mr. Kittisak, who was filming the incident, and chuckled.
Mr. Bowling said that his sanguine reaction in the face of almost certain d.e.ath at the elephant’s stomping feet was just because of his positive attitude.
“I always think (everything that happened to me) was a special moment, and I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to experience that,” he said.
‘I don’t need (to think of things) like bad memories. So I smile to make it a good situation. ‘
Despite a popular association with Thailand, often seen as a domesticated beast, the Asian elephants are endangered species because of the illegal ivory trade.
They grow up to 10ft tall and weigh up to 5.5 tons.