Retired geography teacher Colin Manvell, 67, from Havant in Hampshire, was killed by an elephant he had been trying to photograph while on a jungle tour in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Police said he and two guides had entered a sectioned-off area of the jungle.
Last night, it was reported he failed to hear guides and other tourists shout warnings to him as the elephant approached during the tour.
A UK-based friend of the teacher has told how the former teacher was “partially deaf” and may not have heard calls for him to move out of the way.
Police in India said the elephant had charged the men and hit the British man on the head with its trunk. Both of the guides were able to escape unharmed, they said.
Leisure company director Michael Isaacs, 62, was a close friend of Mr Manvell through his involvement in the Portsmouth and District Lawn Tennis Association.
Speaking last night, Mr Isaacs said: “I’ve known Colin for a few years. I was distraught to hear he had died in such an horrific way.
“I remember him asking people to speak up or direct their conversation towards one side because he had a problem with his hearing in one
ear. You had to make it clear you were speaking to him in committee meetings. Given the problem with his hearing, it is no surprise that he failed to hear an elephant approaching from behind. It’s a tragedy.”
He said Mr Manvell was a keen bird watcher who had retired from Warblington School in Havant in 1998.
Headteacher Julia Vincent said: “Mr Manvell retired from head of geography at Warblington School a number of years ago. Although I did not know him personally, he was well-known to the school community and has kindly donated a trophy for academic achievement in geography.
“We were saddened to hear of this tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family at this sad time.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are aware of the tragic death of a British national in southern India and we are providing consular assistance at this difficult time.”
Police said Mr Manvell had arrived in India on 13 September and met his local guide on Wednesday in Masinagudi.