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What to do around Elephants

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Unread postby Snoobab » Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:11 pm

I know a whole lot of people who all have different views on this subject. A ranger once told me that an ellie can't tell the difference as to which is the front or back of a car and therefore a reversing car to an ellie appears to be something running away. Running away gives the impression of fear and so the ellie might well look at it as a victory and run after you. If you stay still you show no sign of fear and most times he will back off and either move away or carry on what he was doing. Basically don't move into his space and you should be safe and not have to "run away".


Unread postby laserblazer » Tue Mar 28, 2006 1:32 pm

We once drove down to a river bed to look at some crocs sunbathing on the spit. A herd of around 20-30 ellies came down the slope from the other side. Had a drink, wallowed in the mud upset the crocs. One refused to budge until there were two mature ellies either side of it. It eventually gave in and slid into the water.

When the ellies had finished they came straight towards us. They were completely unconcerned and just walked either side of us. My son took the video and I watched it again last night. The video stopped as they approached us. I asked him if he could remember why he stopped filming and it was because there was little point, all we could see was muddy grey skin.

A lot of cars had parked on the road to watch and a KNP vehicle had come part way down the track. He stopped us as we drove back and asked if we had got good shots. His passing remark was "weren't you lucky." I've always assumed he meant lucky to have been in that position but maybe he meant lucky to have survived. :? I suspect it was the former. We felt no anxiety at the time and the ellies were completely relaxed after their bath.

There's some nice footage of one of the babies rolling in the mud. I'll upload it when I get time.

I hasten to add there have been other times when I've met ellies and got the hell out. I think they normally make it pretty obvious when they are miffed.

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Unread postby delboysafa » Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:53 am

Irrespective of the fact you may think they are used to 'cars' and 'people', all wildlife elephant, lion, cheetah, aardvark etc are still WILD and as such unpredictable and should be given the respect and space they deserve. I have spent a lot of time in Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape. You see some idiots chasing after the elephants to get a good picture and spooking them. It I am driving along and get stuck in the middle of a family of elephants crossing, I switch the engine off and make sure the all windows are completely up. Their eyesight may not be great, but their sense of smell is powerful. Seems to have worked for me so far, but 'different strokes for different folks'


Unread postby laserblazer » Wed Mar 29, 2006 10:35 am

bert wrote:
Vonnie wrote: I think ellies mostly mind their own business. I see them as the dolphins of dry land. Only bigger :?

Wish they were smaller. Then i could cuddle them

If I remember correctly, Saba Douglas-Hamilton used to cuddle them when she was a toddler in Tanzania. Her dad's book "Among the Elephants" is a good read if you haven't already.

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Unread postby Meg » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:09 pm

Hi Floris and welcome! I think your original question has been answered very well.

I just wanted to agree with Nunu though, I'm starting to believe they can smell fear. Or maybe they understand our 6th sense which we feel between other humans (ever just known someone's eyes were on you?). Since being in a rather full-on experience with a ranger on a sunset drive a few years ago I've been far more careful around elephant than I ever was before. The interesting thing is, before this I never really had any trouble from elephants, now they sometimes seem rather more annoyed by my presence. Could be coincidence of course :wink:
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Unread postby laserblazer » Wed Mar 29, 2006 1:20 pm

I wonder if it is something as simple as they are getting more and more miffed with the intrusion into their domain. Especially if there are more visitors who don't know the way to behave. So they could put up with a limited number of mobile tin cans that sat quietly and left them alone but are taking exception to revving engines, honking horns and the rest. As an analogy, I am cool calm and collected when I get to school at 7:30. At 8:30 when the kids come in I get very ratty. :evil:

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Unread postby Richman » Wed Mar 29, 2006 2:32 pm

nunu wrote:I There's one that lives around the Songololo loop up at Mopani who chases us everytime we visit there - I kid you not.

Hi Nunu .. I know which one you are writing about , I have had the pleasure of his company on two occasions , the first time he came flying out of the bush just as we were passing him, I hadn't seen him (its amazing how something so big can appear invisable ) ..anyhow he was very agitated ...the second time , he was about 10 meters from the road and we hung well back (+- 50 meters ) but he thought that a bit to close and turned and charged .. by the time he stopped I was 500 meters back down the road.. he then would not let anybody pass him for about an hour ... he is a very cantankerous old bull... but I would love to see him again... :D 8)
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Unread postby nunu » Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:14 pm

Howzit Richman

I am soooo glad its not just me! He is magnificent but I really don't want to see him again, not now not ever! We did that whole blimmin loop which is long (40 ks?) without seeing anything except a steenbokkie and a saddlebilled stork (which was great). We finally got to the end and there he was. We could see the tar road but he would not let us through. Eventually we had to turn around because it was half an hour from gate closure time. I was so frightened we'd meet his mate somewhere back up the the loop, as you know its narrow so if you're sandwiched between two ellies you're toast. Anyway we went all the way back along the songololo, obviously by now hopelessly late. Our reward? A pride of lions had taken up their sunset possie on the other end of the loop - they were a bit cheesed when we came along, seems that they know when the gates shut. By the way lazerblazer, every time this elephant chases us we are alone, no other cars have come along - it seems that he enjoys this even more.


Unread postby laserblazer » Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:22 pm

They are highly intelligent animals so it could be their way of livening up a dull day. In the same way as dogs chase cars. The difference being that a dog usually backs down or loses :?

I'm taking this all on board and I may well be a little more cautious during my next trip.

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Unread postby Elsa » Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:07 pm

I am sure we saw the same ellie with attitude as Nunu and Richman saw a couple of years ago when we were driving up the tar road towards Mopani and as we passed either the mooiplaas road or the S142, I can't remember which now, but we stopped and were considering whether to go down that particular road when we suddenly saw this car reversing at high speed with an ellie in hot pursuit, ears flapping and decided that discretion was the better part of valour and we would definitely not be going down that way!!! we moved on and waited until the car made it to the tar road safely and then watched in the mirrors as the ellie stood triumphant in the road. :roll: :shock:
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Unread postby Wild@Heart » Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:03 am

Ok .. from experience on monday .. DO NOT TRY TO PASS AN ELLIE IN MUSTH WHEN HE IS IN THE ROAD!!

A vehicle in front of us thought ellies are slow .. it was cm's and that car would have been history.

Best is to wait it out. Let him go into the bush and then drive past. I have to reverse a few times for young bulls this trip. They all seem to enjoy this little game. No harm intended but they like to see cars going in reverse.

OH and btw, don't think your vehicle's hooter is going to get him off the road ... In fact you will just make him more determined to get you to reverse. This I have seen as well. :lol:

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Unread postby nunu » Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:43 am

Welcome back Wild@Heart. I fully agree, trying to squeeze past is not an option. Elsa, from your description I have to say,that sounds like him :lol:

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Unread postby sfmarc » Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:25 am

The only time elephants get upset is when you 1) suprise them or 2) block their transit. They probably don't like you getting too close but can usually walk away and being smart creatures do.

We did a hairpin turn along the river south of Letaba into a riverside turnout and met head on with a 15-20 yr old male. We stopped, he trumpeted, we hit it quickly into reverse and were outta there pronto.

Another time we were tailing a SANParks vehicle near Skukuza. A tall tourist bus had stopped to observe a herd of elephants and in so doing blocked their transit across the road. The SANParks truck went on, we hung back. The tourist bus left yet the elephants still appeared consternated, we threw it into reverse for a few ten meters until they felt comfortable enough to cross. After they crossed, one bodacious lactating female came back and excoriated us with a shake of the head for our causing her inconvenience in crossing and exercising undue familiarity with her offspring.

Several times we encountered lone late teen, twenty something males strolling down the road alone, happy as a clam, shaking ears and trunks, stopping before us to dump a few bowling balls of dung washed down with a fire hose full of urine all the while tumescing into five legged beasts, the fifth leg of which is as articulate as the trunk!

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Unread postby Jazil » Wed Apr 05, 2006 8:31 am

I have read this thread with great interest. I am absolutely terrified of elephants, or maybe its great respect for them, and dont like coming anywhere closer than at least 50 meters minimum from a feeding peaceful one, let alone a lone bull elephant in Musk! It appears that now seems to be the time that they are in musk (spelling not sure of), is this so? Or do they come into musk at different times of the year? (Would rather cancel my booked trip in two weeks time and go later if necessary :? )

Have had one experience, (one too many) of having to wait nearly an hour, reversing and stopping, whilst one lonely bull took ownership of the road, dirt road, between L S and Skukuza, (we were late back to camp because of this).

Have also had an experience, not in KNP, but in our Hlane Game Reserve in Swaziland. A whole lot of baby elephants were brought in about 20 years ago, (I think from the KNP and were ones left over or out of a culling). We watched them with interest over the years, starting off with them in an enclosure then when a bit older being let out into a much bigger enclosure, where the Game Rangers used to go calling for them at feeding time...... yes they were fed as well) and then finally two years ago being taken by one Game Ranger into this really large enclosure, many hectares in size, to look for the ellies.......... we came across about 6 or 7 or them, the Ranger said, "turn off the car and sit absolutely still". We did. These ellies came right up to the car, the one ran his trunk all over our windscreen, one rubbed himself aginst our vehicle. They were all around us, we were like a human/vehicle sandwhich, (I was petrified and kept my hat on low and kept reading my book, - did not take in a word of what I was reading - I did not want to look, but did peep now and again!).
After about 15 minutes, the ellies wondered off, it was a terrifiyng experience, but I suppose an equally wonderful one.
The Rangers obviously knew these ellies, but I still think its taking a chance, as I have heard reports on how unpredictable these sort of ellies are that are brought up alone with no parental guidance.

Anyways, please tell me what is the season when they are in musk? How long does it last?
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Unread postby bucky » Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:19 am

Im sure its musth .

The males are in musth for about 1 month out of the year , at random times .
There musth period can be from as little as a week , to 3 months or more , although this is regarded as abnormal and is a discussion on its own .

Musth bulls will chase any other mature non-musth bull out of his area , even bigger & stronger bulls will give way and move out of a musth bulls area .
If all the males went on musth at the same time , it would be a blood bath as the only time bulls will fight to the death , or really hurt each other would be when 2 musth bulls meet up .

As I mentioned previously , stay away , I have seen 3 cars that have been attacked by ellies that where all apparently in musth .
1 Poor couple was watching a pair of musth bulls battling , when 1 suddenly turned and attacked the car , luckily none of the people where hurt .
If you just give them there space , nothing will happen to you , my friends and family who are all regulars have never had an issue , but we all show the due respect .
Last edited by bucky on Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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