What to do around Elephants

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Re: elle charged us

Unread post by Wild@Heart »

davep001 wrote:luckily the KNP ranger knew how to take control, but us in the truck were rather nervous that the elle was going to charge us.... what do you think the chances are?

What if the elle charged us, what would happen.. how would anyone else besides us know where we are?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!

Hi davep001,

2 things to look out for when you approach elephants ... look for bull in musth and for babies ... guaranteed in any of these two occasions, if you come to close, you will have to deal with the RVFBAP Syndrome (Reverse Very Fast Back and Pray) ...

A few things I have picked up whilst in the Park and from Rangers in the Park is that you need to be alerts..

There were a few elephants in the Park who had a game they used to play .. called "Have fun with the Tourists" they would purposefully stand in the middle of the road and not allow any tourist through ... at stages even "pushing" them back ...

Then there were also the notorious elephants like Mafunyane ... who after his encounter with poachers just had no time for humans ... we have been "pushed along" once along the Sabie River after both the elephants and myself suprised each other when they came from a thick bush ..

Main thing to do was to remain calm ... the matriarc just trumpted, shaked the ears and watched me ... (note I have now already put my vehicle in Reverse gear .... the next moment a baby cam running out, and I knew it was now or never ... I slowly started to reverse and the matriarc made sure I continue in that direction ... until she felt her herd was safe ...

When you are not sure if an elephant will charge is to look out for a few warning signs

1. An elephant who trumpets and shakes his head and flapping his ears is letting you know, you are to close now ... if you continue you risk the chance of being charge
2. When the ears and put against the head and the trunk is "rolled up" between the tusks underneath the mouth then make like haste, because that is the charge pose ...

This is not hard and fast rules ... but being alert will always help in dangerous situations.
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Unread post by jaapvandijk »

well, that man has really been lucky.

What do you guys/girls think about Mad Mike & Mark?

here my close encounter.
this ellie came to close to feel comfortable.
no, I didnt zoomed in. I could toutch this guy if I had dare to do it :lol:
No this was not a ellie in the zoo, it was a wild ellie!
He gave me a good fright. I noticed he was in musth after he came so close and acting so 'strange' (agressive, than calm again and all of a sudden came wide eared to the car. as you can see on the pics.)
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What to do around Elephants

Unread post by Floris »

Here's the thing.I'm driving along very slowly and the next moment an elephant ( very big and very close ) appear out of nowhere. Gently browsing and at peace but almost blocking the way. Do I a) Turn off the engin and enjoy the moment even if he/she wants to walk past the car or b) Keep the engin running in case I have to get away? I' m inclined to want to go for the first option.This is my first posting on the forum and I hope I'm doing it correctly.I am sooo happy to know there are lots of Kruger addicts. Only 65 sleepies! Floris.
Ps. Thanks for all the responses. What about rhinos in similar situations?
Last edited by Floris on Mon Mar 27, 2006 12:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post by LittleLeopard »

Hi Floris, I'm happy to 'meet' yet another Kruger addict. :D

I personally would never turn off the engine if I have an ellie in such close proximity. I think it's looking for trouble. We always keep the engine running just in case we have to make a quick getaway. :?
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Unread post by DuQues »

If you want to take photo's you will have to turn of the engine. The vibrations will give you an unsharp photo.

Most ellies are friendly, so if stay out of of their comfortzone you should be ok. Just keep an eye to your escaperoute(s), another one may pop up behind you.

Believe it or not, but those 6500 kg, 4 meters tall grey animals can hide behind two little trees.
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Unread post by peterpiper »

bert wrote:Hi and welcome Floris

When a Ellie walks by very peacefull I never have the engine running. Except when its a bull in musk. Tell tale signs are the wet eyes and face. But i always make sure that i have space to escape it needed. I try to allow 10 meters as minimal distance :D

Please don't think of 10 metres as being minimum distance!
No offence Bert, but you really do need to be further away than that.
Stop 50 metres or more and pay attention to the signs. ]
First most important to me is, are they continuing to eat. This is USUALLY a sign that they are not stressed.
Then turn off engine and perhaps let them come closer to you. All the time keep looking for signs.
Most times, if they do not want you there they will-
Stop eating
At this point, don't wait for further signs, rather back off.
Use a longer lens.
Be especially careful of breeding herds with small babies and never get in amongst the herd.
Can you see the whole herd?
Often there are others hidden that may come out ahead of you trappind your easy exit.
Try to have the car facing away from the herd, not easy reversing under attack..
Males in Musk as Bert says, should be treated with utmost respect. This is one of the few occassions that I will rather turn around and retrace my path, than push my luck.Look out for moisture running down their cheeks below the eyes.

All in all, these animals are potentially very dangerous and you should always keep well away if you are not sure about the situation.
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Re: What to do around Elephants

Unread post by LittleLeopard »

Floris wrote:Here's the thing.I'm driving along very slowly and the next moment an elephant ( very big and very close ) appear out of nowhere.

Perhaps you could tell us exactly how close the ellie was? It goes without saying that the further the ellie, the safer you are. But, if in close proximity, I would not take a chance. Unpredictable behaviour, especially in males, is not uncommon. :?
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Unread post by richardharris »

Take care around elephants - but don't become paranoid. I know several people (including my wife - terrified by a mock charge years ago!) who thing 1000 meters is the 'comfort zone' for an elephant! This can ruin a trip. Sensible behaviour from the start will hopefully prevent paranoia developing.

The herds are the least worrying as along as you don't get between mother and baby. On one occasion, with no where to go, I had to stop on the side of the Letaba - Olifants dirt road whilst a large herd walked peaceably by.

But I have also driven backwards for many kms over the years, whilst a huge bull plays with you. You just back up till they get bored and walk off.

Rangers have a different approach, but not one I would recommend for the occasional visitor!

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Unread post by nunu »

I never turn off the car near an elephant. I have been charged too many times. There's one that lives around the Songololo loop up at Mopani who chases us everytime we visit there - I kid you not. My mom says that he can 'smell my fear from miles away". I think she's speaking rubbish - anyway still don't know how he always finds me but he is a real swine. I generally find the ellies in the south are more placid than those up north. In particular I find the one's around Mopani to be the worst - has anyone else similar experiences of this?

Is it "in musth" (an Indian word) or "in musk"?
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Unread post by bucky »

Always show that you are "backing off" , dont ever act in a fashion that may be interpereted as agression , you will come off second best .

I will only turn off my engine after spending at least a few minutes , and making sure the animal/s have become used to my vehicles presence , and are going about there business as usual .
Always make sure you are good to go , and your key is ready in the start position , with imobilizers and handbrakes off , keep your foot on the brake rather .
Dont get to involved in photographing a peacefull individual , and not paying attention to other members of the heard that may have become agressive towards you , all it takes is a little 1 to wander to close to you to make older members get upset .

Dont smoke when watching elephants , I have noticed people who like to light up at a sighting , and this upsets the animals , this goes for any of the cats also .

Musth elephants (as described above , as well as a stronger than normal smell) are not there for viewing pleasure , pass it quickly if possible , or go another way if it has decided to "own" the road , dont hang about , go find another ellie to watch.

I was in a siuation once , where we got trapped with 1 elephant walking up the road , and another 1 that we had not seen that came out behind us , both where at a safe distance initially, but approached us from either side , doing head flicking and trunk waving etc etc , we pulled of the road , and switched off . The Elephant from the back passed behind us and rushed on to spar with the other 1, I presume our actions indicated that we backed down from any challenge , and saved us from becoming a sparring partner .
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Unread post by Nicolette »


I have been charged once for real and several times "Mock" I give elephants the respect they deserve. All the advice is good. Unfortunately I find a lot of silly people who antagonise the elephants to try and get s reaction. They don't get the reaction they want and often the innocent people peacefully watching come off second best. Once I had the experience of a young guy throwing a stone at an elephant. We had to reverse at least 1 kilometere down a dirt road to escape the elphant while the culprit roared off leaving the rest of the cars having to reverse. As you say bulls in Musch are very unpredictable and often aggresive and little elphants in a herd often behave in an unexpected way causing the Mothers to protect. Be careful

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Unread post by Elsa »

We have found that head lights on seem to antagonise them as well, once nearing the Kruger gate almost at closing time a driver in front of us had his lights on and the ellie was definitely not very happy with the situation and showed that particular car his displeasure mostly ingnoring the rest of us. :shock:
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Unread post by bert »

bucky wrote:When approaching any animal at times where head lights are needed , I always turn to dim beams until I pass .
Your headlights temporarily blind them , and they do not know where to go ,

During a nightdrive you are always warned not to shine the spot to long on ellies. The same reason as described by Bucky.
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Unread post by Snoobab »

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 post by laserblazer »

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.