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Woman trampled by elephants was 'fearless' researcher

Courtesy of Ryan Clapp

Lily Glidden

The young American woman trampled to death by elephants in Thailand was a "fearless" outdoor researcher who knew how to handle dangerous animals, her family said Friday.

Lily Glidden's body was found in a forest five days after she went for a walk in the Kaeng Krachan National Park and never returned, police said.

Her camera contained photos of wildlife, and investigators believe she was crushed by elephants based on the nature of her injuries.

"We believe that what happened to Lily was a result of unknowable and unusual circumstances which she must have been unable to foresee or prevent," her family said in a statement.

Glidden, who graduated from Tufts University in 2012 with a biology degree, had done work trapping wolves in the West, handling venomous snakes in Hong Kong, and counting game animals on the Serenegti plain. She spent a year in tracking and survival training at a wilderness school.

"Lily was very aware of the dangers of working with wildlife and not a person to court foolish risks, particularly where animals were involved," her family said.

"She had an educated and dedicated respect for the natural world and was completely comfortable in it. She did extensive solo hiking and backpacking in many parts throughout the West and knew how to respond to chance encounters with bears and other potentially dangerous animals.

"She was also a fearless individual... We would wish her remembered as an extremely competent professional in her chosen field.”

Courtesy Ryan Clapp

Lily Glidden

Glidden, who grew up in Freeville, N.Y., outside Ithaca, had traveled all over for work but was on vacation in Thailand, said close friend Ryan Clapp, who visited her there in early January.

The two attended Tufts, where Glidden was the president of the Mountain Club and the Ultimate Frisbee team.

"She was known as kind of a badass," said Clapp.

He recalled that during wilderness training in their senior year, Glidden spent her free time making a pelt from a dead squirrel she found on the road. During one spring break, she camped out by herself at the reservoir with little supplies, just to see if she could do it.

"She threw out one of her shoulders skydiving. The result was she was asked to to go to the hospital to get it back into place. Instead she went to a tree and threw herself backwards into it and popped her shoulder back into place," Clapp said.

She had a "big brassy laugh" but an unassuming style, he said. "We'd have to brag for her."

Glidden posted pictures of her travels and wildlife work on her Facebook page. One photo showed her holding a huge snake and wearing a T-shirt with an image of an elephant.

Clapp had visited her in Hong Kong, where she was part of a project that tracked bamboo pit vipers, which can be deadly. He said she had snakes in bags stashed all over the jungle shack she shared with other researchers.

"It made me so nervous," he said. "But she talked about them like they were little puffballs."