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LI travel agents: African wildlife tramplings rare

Fatal wildlife encounters such as the trampling of a U.S. woman and her baby this week are rare, travel agents and Kenyan wildlife officials said.

"It's very uncommon for this to happen," said Sharifa Burnett, owner of African Dreamer Tours in Valley Stream. "This must have been a very isolated situation."

But Burnett and others said the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Sharon Brown, 39, and her daughter Margaux, 1, seemed outside the norm for African tourism. The two were killed when an elephant charged them during a walk near Mount Kenya National Park led by an unarmed guide.

Visitors to game parks and nature preserves typically ride in a sturdy vehicle with a driver and a guide. Tour companies do offer walking safaris in the bush, but those expeditions usually have armed guides, said Henry Kartagener of Kartagener Associates, a travel marketing company in Commack with clients in Kenya and seven other African countries.

Deaths by charging elephants are rare in Kenya and happen about once a year, Kentice Tikolo, a spokeswoman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, told The Associated Press.

But conflicts between humans and wildlife are on the rise. Last year there were 7,034 reported conflicts in Kenya - a 62 percent jump from 2007, according to the wildlife service's annual report. Only 1 percent of the 2008 cases involved human fatalities.

Debra Sternberg of Liberty Travel in Bay Shore said she was charged by an elephant on a 2008 visit to Kenya's Shaba National Reserve.

"At first it was frightening, but we took off in the Jeep and elephants can only run quickly for a short period of time," she said.

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