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What to do around Elephants

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Unread postby NightOwl » Thu Apr 20, 2006 3:26 pm

Addo Ellies are definitely more docile than Kruger ellies.
I've been so close to ellies on regular occasions, that they often brush the car walking pass on there way to wherever they going. Regularly switch the car of to limit agitation to ellies and then sit DEAD still, while just enjoying the sighting. Only sound will be my camera shutter :lol:
Key here is to read their body language and BE SENSIBLE!!!
Use comon sense!!! NO HOOTER!!! give way to bulls in Musth, meaning dont try to then switch the car off. do everything SLOWLY. If you see a bull approach and you have no option, but to reverse, start reversing SLOWLY in advance.
If they are on their way to water, don't block their path. You can park right next to their path, and they will completely ignore you.
These elephants walked literally about 5-20cm from us past the nose of the car.
I saw the heard approach the road and scanned the bushes for their path on the opposite side of the road, then parked my car skew with nose close to their path, but not blocking their route. Took nearly 200 Awesome shots of the heard(about 70 elephants). The only elephant to even stop for about 10 seconds and glance at us, was when my girlfriend sneezed. Ellie realized no danger and moved on.
Be Sensible, Use Common Sense, Stay calm, Read the signs, and Respect the animal.
Last edited by NightOwl on Fri Apr 21, 2006 7:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postby alya000 » Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:07 pm

Hi NightOwl,
I thank you to share your experiences and all your advices full of wisdom. I will think about these during my trip in may.
First, I must train to be silent ... :oops: I'm a girl...

You have awsome and beautiful pictures :clap:
All the best in your next trip.

ps : what a chance to live so closed of SANParks, I envy you :redface:

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Unread postby Jay » Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:23 pm

the rules:
1) watch ellie out back window, is easier to drive fast forward (and straight)than in reverse.
2) mommies with babies, old ones, musth ones need PLENTY room to move.
3) when watching one ellie, look around more are probably going to come creeping out the bush.
....and finally, have only been charged once in the twenty odd years I have been going to the park and that one was just having fun.

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Unread postby Arie » Thu Apr 20, 2006 9:10 pm

Good advise Jay! May I add one rule?

When watching ellies at close range always keep your engine running (the driver of last weeks incident turned it off :naughty: )

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Unread postby graemy » Sat May 13, 2006 7:43 pm

We just came back from Kruger and saw a lot of elephant... Most of our sightings were in the southern region of the park, but it is true that we didn't go any further north than Letaba. Around Oliphants sightings of many herds of fifteen to twenty individuals.
I must admit that before going to Kruger I was a little nervous about the elephants. Everything went very well. Give them as much room as possible, try to feel their humour, watch whether they continue feeding when you're around... Look out for babies and elephants you didn't see, hiding in the bush. If you keep an eye out you're fine. The best barometer is just trying to feel if you're confortable with them and them with you. We often backed up in reverse until we could assess the situation and then drove up a bit closer when things seemed to be ok.
The only times when we really got nervous was on the very small narrow loop roads with thick bush on each side. Once we drove up one of those loops and there were elephants very close on both sides. It was a bit late to turn back as we were already in their midst. Driving along very slowly as not to disturb them we came to a dead end with what looked like hippo trails leading to the water. I didn't feel too good about turning around and driving back through the elephants but we didn't have much choice. Driving back slowly they just kept on browsing and let us through although there were some quite young ones next to the road.
Most times you get to respect them and leave them enough space, but sometimes you just drive right into the middle of them in tight spots. Hard to not get nervous!!!
I love elephants!!!
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Unread postby saraf » Sun May 14, 2006 11:34 pm

We took one of those tiny loops getting near a river bed and when we looked in the rear view mirror, there was a huge bull just coming out of the bushes. Got the fright of our lives (both us and the ellie).

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Unread postby nunu » Mon May 15, 2006 12:48 pm

Hi Graemy

So good to hear that you seem to have had a great trip. Welcome home! I love ellies too (even if it doesnt always seem like it!)

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Unread postby wildheart » Sat May 05, 2007 10:53 am

I have experienced that the ellies around Singwedzi wasn't as friendly as there neighbours. When ever you pass them on the road then they shake their heads and break the branches. They really struck fear into my daughter, so much that we were not allowed to pass one standing next to the rode anymore.

In Jan 07 we were travelling on the gravel road from Red Rocks to Shingwedzi. Because it was so overgrown in that area we drove very slowly to make sure that we dont give any thing in the bushes a fright. As we came around a corner we found a herd of ellies on both sides of the road. We waited about 30 min for them to move-on but it became clear that they were planning on spending the day. We decided that we will have to pass them cause it was getting late. We drove extremely slowly but that didnt help :? the next moment we heard breaking branches and a loud trumpeter. When we looked back we had an ellie chasing us, flapping his ears with his trunk up in a thick cloud of dust. :shock: . I have to say, I enjoyed every moment of it. This is one of the ellies that were entertaining us.

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Unread postby eladn » Sun Jun 10, 2007 6:47 pm

We had a bad encounter in the Berg En Dal dirt road loop. We crested a hill, and surprisied what was probably a young, angry bull, who started making noises, flapping its nose around, tearing big branches from nearby trees, and getting into the road toward my car. I immediately reversed, but two inconsiderate 4x4 drivers going each the other direction decided to discuss the issue in details just behind me, blocking my reverse escape route, while the thrashing elly was closing all of the time. When it got closer to me, but went a little off the road, seeing that the two gentlemen continue to ignore the ellie's anger and my clear reverse lights, I pinned the pedal to the metal and stormed forward at 40km/h before the elly had a chance to get on the road again, out of the scene.

After that, we were careful around these big beasts. At Biyamiti, we went for an afternoon drive toward the Weir but to over-cheerful ellies at the two sides of the road, plus another blocking the road ahead convinced me not to take chances (especially since it was another hour to gate closing time), and we decided to call it a day, go back to camp and watch birds there.


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Unread postby gwendolen » Sun Jun 10, 2007 7:12 pm

eladn wrote:When it got closer to me, but went a little off the road, seeing that the two gentlemen continue to ignore the ellie's anger and my clear reverse lights

Shame on them for being so inconsiderate. :evil:

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Unread postby wildheart » Sun Jun 10, 2007 8:42 pm

We found that the ellies up north were very irritated, must be the mopanie not working well with the stomachs.

We came around a bent on the Red Rocks loop and got a huge fright. :shock: There were ellies right next to the road on both sides. Luckily we were driving very slowly so we didnt give them much fright. We waited for them to move on into the bush, but as time went buy it became clear that they were very happy right were they were. We couldnt turn around cause then we wouldnt have made gate time so we had to drive through them.

We slowly crept pass them but the next moment one broke branches and turned right around and disappeared in the bushes. The next moment he came charging down the road behind our car. Flapping ears and trunk up high, causing a huge dust cloud. Image
It was really a frightening experience.

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Unread postby Perks. » Mon Jun 11, 2007 9:45 am

Still get a massive adrenalin rush when I drive around a corner, or crest a hill, to find funt (or rhino or buff) in the road, or just next to.

As a rule, 40 metres is the closest I'll, get and even then, should one of the herd make eye contact, I'll reverse a bit, to show no intention of being a threat.

In my trip report I described the large (40+) breeding herd we encountered at Nhlanganini, and the JJ who told us later that this was quite a sociable herd, and were comfortable with vehicles in close proximity. Well, I still took no chances!

Recall two mad ellie encounters...

1. Duke on the CB-LS road, May 97. I swear he was just having fun with all these cars reversing and ducking down the side road. There were no big ear flapping or trunk-raising overtures, and eventually he just sauntered off into the veld. THAT was nerve-wracking.

2. Towing caravan from LS to Satara, via Tshokwane, early 80s. Around a corner we find a veritable parking lot of cars, and an angry herd. Most of the cars ducked behind us and took off. We reversed as best we could before we started twisting the van. And then we just stopped. My dad could do nothing, my mom was very anxious, and the angry funto was doing the complete mock charge routine with flappy ears and stomping, and trumpeting. But it was a total stalemate, we could nowhere, he was going nowhere, so we just waited. I think having the caravan behind us made us look bigger than the average car, which was why he never actually made the charge. I k***ed myself that day, and have paid ellies and 'saurus lots of respect ever since.

And one WEIRD buffalo experience, September 97, overnighting in LS, en route to hockey tournament in Nelspruit. Also on the CB-LS road, a large herd (200+) of buff going west-east to drink at the river. One minute we were driving along, through very thick riverine scrub, the next a buff stepped on the road ahead of us, we stopped, and the next second, we were surrounded by tons of prime beef. Just switched off the car, and watched. We had the trailer, and not even one buffalo so much as brushed either car or Venter. A guy in an Isuzu DC couldn't be bothered to wait for the crossing to be finished, and edged into the herd. The mass of animals being pressed from all sides had nowhere to go, and said vehicle was bumped and scratched a bit for the driver's troubles. It was a surreal and thoroughly enjoyable experience, and changed my outlook of buffalo as these permanently enraged beasts who would just love to turn humans into Swiss cheese.
Last trip: New Years in Skuks and Satara
Next: ....................................................

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Unread postby Albert » Mon Jun 11, 2007 11:49 am

Over the past few years we have found the northern elles to be particularly ornery. We have a healthy respect for these beasts, and tend to give them a wide berth...have had a number of memorable experiences, not least of which was finding ourselves in double line of cars stacked behind a large and irritated bull strolling towards Satara, just minutes before gate closing time. The elephant suddenly turned round, it was amazing to see this double line of cars suddenly imitate a "fish skeleton" by reversing diagonally off the road!
One of my ex post-graduate students was originally from a rural village right next to the northern part of Kruger, and they frequently had to chase elles out of the vegetable crops. He told me that when the elephant flaps the ears and stomps around before a charge, it is normally a mock charge. It's when the ears flatten and the head lowers slightly that you are in trouble. He also maintains that a huge amount of noise will make the elephants move away or back if you are backed into a corner, maybe shouting, banging on the roof of the car and using the hooter will make the elephant decide to go elsewhere...note that I say maybe! :lol: Anybody willing to try this and seeing if it works?
Searching for a Cape Eagle Owl....

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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Mon Jun 11, 2007 12:57 pm

Hey Albert, read my birding meet thread under members activities.

I have had quite a few experiences with eles, and the advice I was given, saw in operation and practised myself, was with a matriarch in a breeding herd to floor your accelerator in neutral. The noise scares her off, and you can pass through. I don't know about a big bull in musth though :shock:
Whatever (according to BB): "You are correct but I don't want to admit it".

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Unread postby Senyetse » Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:10 am

I worked as a jeep jockey in Pilanesberg for a year in 1996. That place had some very aggressive elephants. In that year I learnt that you have to give them their space and approach them slowly and give musth bulls a wide berth :lol: . We were at Shingwedzi last week and there were hundreds of elephants along the river. A big mistake most people made was to get too close or to speed passed the elephants scaring them and making things more unpleasant for the cars still to pass. Approach slowly and see if the animal is relaxed. If so then there should be no problem. If there are small calves around wait for them and the cows to pass over the road and leave the road clear. With musth bulls the best thing is to keep your distance and wait for them to leave the road. Once the animal is a few meters into the bush you should be able to pass slowly. Do not speed passed as the animal will be startled and possibly charge you or other vehicles.

Flapping of the ears, holding the head high, swaying side to side on the feet, trumpeting, ripping out plants and throwing them down are all signs of an angry elephant.
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