Safari Guide Reportedly Dies in Girlfriend's Arms After Elephant Attack: 'He Is Sorely Missed by All'

Sheldon Hooper, 27, died last Tuesday following an encounter with a herd of nine elephants

Sheldon Hooper
Sheldon Hooper. Photo: Instagram

A safari guide working near Kruger National Park in South Africa is dead after he was violently injured in an elephant attack.

Sheldon Hooper, 27, died from his injuries last Tuesday following an encounter with nine pachyderms — including three female elephants and six calves — during a routine perimeter check at Thornybush Game Lodge in Johannesburg, according to Trevor Jordan, the CEO of the reserve where the late ranger had worked.

Hooper and another co-worker were out on patrol when they found themselves 65 feet away from the wild herd, which was likely too "close to a 6-month-old calf," Jordan told local news outlet Times Live.

One of the adult elephants chased Hooper for 32 feet before attacking with its tusk, according to Jordan.

Sheldon Hooper
Sheldon Hooper. Instagram

“One tusk went into him just above his heart and below his collar bone and the other caused a gaping wound to his leg," he told The Mirror.

Hooper's colleague went to get help while the ranger called his girlfriend Rebecca Rowles, who also worked at the park, the outlet reported.

He reportedly died in Rowles' arms 20 minutes after paramedics arrived.

Hooper, who started working at the reserve in July 2019, was remembered for "his quirky sense of humor, the respect he showed those he worked with, his dedication for conservation and his talent for story-telling" in a tribute shared on the Thornybush Game Lodge's Facebook Thursday.

"As a guest or a friend of Sheldon’s, you would have had the pleasure of experiencing his incredible kindness, infectious smile and love of the bush," the post read. "His repertoire of knock-knock jokes couldn’t help but make you chuckle, no matter how you were feeling, and the adaptation of his signature fist-bump or high-five greeting, to a foot bump during COVID, would have been seen all over Waterside Lodge, which is where he was stationed."

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The tribute also described Hooper as a man with a "keen eye behind the camera" and a "gifted writer" who often contributed to the lodge's blog.

"Sheldon’s life was a celebration of his passions and he is sorely missed by all," the tribute said.

The elephant who attacked Hooper was later found by staffers to be "relaxed and showed no aggression," Jordan told Live Times.

"We decided against euthanizing the elephant," he said.

A representative for the Thornybush Game Lodge did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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