Elephant hospital in Kerala
REPRESENTATIONAL IMAGECreative Commons/Safari Partners

An elephant ride for a Chinese family in Thailand turned into a nightmare after the animal killed its mahout and escaped into a jungle on Wednesday. 

The Chinese couple and their child were riding on the elephant at the Phutawan elephant camp in Thailand's Chiang Mai province along a river when the elephant, named Plai Somjai, became agitated and tried to throw them off its back, The Bangkok Post reported. 

When the mahout tried to control the elephant, it gored him to death and then ran into the nearby jungle with the family on its back, the report said. 

Authorities at the elephant camp then sent another mahout familiar with the escaped elephant into the jungle to look for the Chinese tourists. 

The mahout was fortunately able to calm the elephant and bring him back to the camp, and the family escape the chilling incident unhurt, but shaken. 

"The mahout who was killed was Karen (an ethnic minority) and he was not familiar with the elephant. They (the tourists) are safe now," a police official of Mae Wang district in Chiang Mai province, told AFP.

According to animal rights activists, many of the 4,000 domesticated elephants in Thailand are stressed as they are used actively in the tourism industry.