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What to do around Elephants

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Meandering Mouse » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:39 am

I tend not to be afraid of ellies, but I do respect them.

I have never had a problem with bull ellies, but I have had a couple of encounters with "big mamas".

Once when with my daughter, a car in front of us got far too close and familiar with a breeding herd. They drove off, cameras and heads out of the window having obtained their ellie shots.

Big mama decided enough was enough and came to clear the road :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes: only, I was in the firing line. My daughter remined me that attack was unlikely if you were not seen as a threat.

I moved as close to the side of the road as possible and switched off my engine. Big mama gave a mock charge and turned away in disgust. Maybe the smell from my car :wink:

Here I was photographing a breeding herd close to Kanniedood.

Next thing:


big mama was giving me the eye. They are so silent, I had failed to notice her behind the tree. I don't know who got the biggest fright. :big_eyes: :big_eyes: :big_eyes:

We both made a noise :big_eyes:

mine different to hers. :wink:

This was one of those ultra stupid moments. :roll:

If you look at the small car behind this massive bull ellie, it is the car that holds the man, that holds the camera.. that climbed out to get a closer pic.


Thank goodness he was not an aggresive ellie.
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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby ecojunkie » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:23 pm

An encounter this morning made me retreat. I was travelling home on the S25, when I came round a corner and face to face with a large bull walking in the road. We both got a surprise! I gave him space and reversed just a little to the side furtherest from him. He stopped and then began to move on again but even more to the side of the road. But then he seemed to think again and turned to face me and began to show aggression. Rather than begin a reversing chase scenario, I simply turned round and took a detour via the S119 meeting more ellies, but much more friendly ones!

Had a convenient detour not been available I would have still turned round, but then sat for 10 or 15 minutes a km or two further down the road and then slowly moved forward again. Usually by then the ellie has moved off and all is OK and no further aggro has been provoked.
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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Bettyspaghetti » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:34 am

Oooh this does remind me of our first trip to the park in 1999, we were young and naive and driving along a road near Skukuza we encountered a bull elephant. He was stood bang in the middle of the road facing us about 20m away. Well Mr Spaghetti (who was driving) got his camera out and started to take photos as the ele strode toward us, ears akimbo and trunk waving around - meanwhile I was in passenger seat of the hire car and prodding Mr Spaghetti to reverse quick.

Of course as Mr Spag was looking through the viewfinder of the camera, the ele actually looked further away so he didn't panic, until he put the camera down and realised that we were indeed now close to the point of being uncomfortable so he took the handbrake off and put his foot on the accelerator....only to find that he wasn't in reverse at all (as he had thought) - but in "drive" so we we going even closer! :big_eyes:

I have never seen his face drain of colour quite as quickly as Mr Spag panicked in the hire car, found reverse and got away as soon as possible - poor ele looked most bemused and wandered off into the bush. After that we developed a more respectful distance from eles and Mr Spag is banned from taking photos when driving ever again :thumbs_up:

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby BerkiSA » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:19 pm

Hi All,

WOW! If i had a Rand for every time an elephant charged me, i could afford to spend all year in the park!

The most recent and worst charge i have had came on the 6th December 2011. We had done a fantastic early morning drive from Satara heading to Tshokwane for a breakfast. We were still a little early for breakfast (6:25am) and so I decided to take the S33 dirt loop road to Tshokwane.

As we had driven about 5km along the S33 we went down and up a river bead and rounded a corner only to see a massive Bull 70m further up the road. The bush is very high and constricts the road to such an extent there would be no safe way to pass the bull and so I decided to wait until he moved away into the bush.

Suddenly with no warning the Bull turned around and start charging at full speed. I have had many mock charges in the past and this certainly was not one of them. The bull had his trunk locked under his head and ears pressed flat against his body. I could not turn the car around due to lack of space with the bush and so had to reverse away while the bull was catching us.

The real problem came as I realised we would not easily be able to reverse up the riverbank and I had to make a quick decision, so with the bull 30m away I swung my car into the bush (crushing a small tree and scratching the whole car!) and shot off in first with the bull about 5m away!

My girlfriend and I ended up getting safely away and went straight back to satara for an early morning shot of whisky! It was only during sitting down that I realised my girlfriend had managed to get a photo of the bull from the side just before he charged. When zooming in, one can clearly see that the bull was in musth. I am just happy that we did not go any closer to the bull!


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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Nicolette » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:03 pm

Wow Berkisa that must have been scary. I also have been charged and threatened many times. I have a healthy respect for Elephants and give them lots of space. Especially when they are in Musth or when there are babies around.
My last trrip in March we had 2 seperate Bull elephants who quite rightly decided they owned the road. I could see they did not like 1 the Silver 4X4 between lower Sabie and Croc bridge and the Black 4X4 betrween Lower Sabie and Skukuza The first one we reversed up the dirt road to Dukes waterhole and stopped. I mentioned to my friend that perhaps we were still too close. She replied dont worry look behind, To my amusement there were about 6 cars behind us who had done the same thing. After much nervous laughter we waited and went back onto the tar road and drove on to Skukuza, About 5 or 6 kilo from Lower Sabie we encountered another Bull we reversed about 1 kilometre and had enough time to turn around and go back to Lower Sabie. Once again we were joined by several other drivers who decided that breakfast in Lower Sabie was a good idea. These 2 were not happy chappies.
I get really nervous when other drivers decide to be brave? and get close and in doing so lock you in with no escape. I wish people would be sensible.


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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby KTM KWAGGA » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:08 pm

A few years ago we were on our way from CB to Malelane. We were going up a hill when a BIG BULL with one broken tusk started moving down the hill. We stopped and started reversing. The bull started moving faster down the hill. We reversed for about 3km. By now there were about 10 vehicles reversing. The brave dude in an Isuzu behind us decided to pull off into the bush. I was happy that we were not first inline anymore, lol. The bull went straight for him. He quickly reversed to get out of the way.

We reversed to a turn off to a lodge. Half of the cars stayed on the main road and the other half took the road to the lodge. We were on the lodge road and as luck would have it the bull followed us. At this stage it was already dark. We had spoken to the local ranger who was on his way to "recue" us. We were instructed to go and wait at the lodge.

When the ranger arrived the bull had disappeared. We had to follow him in the dark on our own night drive. He suddenly turned and stopped with his lights on a leopard next to the road! When we got to the road leading to the Malelane gate, he stopped and asked if we would be ok to go to Berg en Dal while he takes the other cars to the gate. 2km on the BeD road we were lucky enough to find a lioness in the road. What a great experience at the end of the day.

This was a very stressful experience for our daughter. To this day she hates the S25 with a passion. She calls it our elephant nightmare road. I personally prefer to see elephants in the river far away from me.

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby robertson » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:51 am

I'm on the floor with laughter and almost weeing in my pants with all the stories.

My story is 5km from lower Sabie came across a breeding heard of Ellies, camera automatically out and through the lens finder all seemed perfectly well, cars infront and behind us so I felt safe, dropping the camera to change lenses I realised the cars infront of us all made a speedy move forward and the cars and open game view vehicles behind us had all reversed20 - 30 meters away all keeping and I on us to make sure we would be ok, I looked at the Mrs and she was sitting dead still as we were in the middle of a breeding hear and 10 - 15 calves were around us with the mommies standing no less than a meter away from our doors. Big Mamma came straight to us head first in a calmly manner as out engine was of and with my now not makeing any movements, she stood there staring at us almost to say " this is my heard, you will not harm us" we were blessed to sit there for 20min in the middle of these playful Ellies and BigMamma not moving. I unfortunately didn't get the pics as I was to sh*t scared to put a lens on the camera again God blessed us with the memory. 20 min had gone and the Ellies had moved on, almost all the cars behind us congratulated us and said we were amazing and so professional, if only they new what the voices were saying!
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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Scipio » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:01 am

I used to go to Sable dam on a daily basis, and got to know a bunch of bulls there, and they were so close sometimes I could touch them. But naughty as heck, always trying to slip in close without you seeing them. :lol: :lol:


This time i had friends with me. :lol: :lol:


I can related numerous stories of that bunch, but moral is, just be calm, and pray. 8) Cause one day you meet the one that did not read the book on ellie behaviour. :thumbs_up:

Robertson, I am S$^#% scared avery time. :redface:

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby threedogs » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:43 am

Scipio, is there that little windy bit of track that goes to Sable Dam with all the dense bush around like in that top photo? That bit of track always gets me antsy. We came around a corner there last year and met a few of your ellie friends :shock: I don't like the feeling of being hemmed in and with no manouvering room when you get surprised like that. :lol:

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby Scipio » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:00 pm

The one and only 3D, :lol: I can show pics and related stories of Ellies in that piace for hours on end. :lol: :lol:

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Re: Bull Elephants Advancing on your car

Unread postby nighthawk2 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 9:28 pm

Robertson, seems like your adventure was accidental - ours was somewhat intentional.
A few years back, we were parked at the waterhole in Addo, last in a series of cars viewing the comings & goings. out from the bush behind us ambled out a family group on their way to the waterhole. They passed at most 10 metres from the car. We sat & watched, then they turned & were headed for the bush but instead of going back exactly the way they came, headed straight for us. All the other cars decided to retreat while we stood our ground carefully observing the body language. In no time we were surrounded, just marvelled at the beauty & gentleness of these awesome creatures. Only thing we had to do was roll up the windows because they started to stick their trunks in!
The others may have thought we were stupid but an incident from one of our first trips to Mikumi, we passed a small family of elephants & stopped a short distance ahead to observe. In no time they were beside us & not being experienced as well as it being our last day, we didn't want any bad memories, so we asked the driver to move on. His response was to sit tight, don't make any noise & observe, otherwise they would probably charge.
What happened next will always remain with us. Two young adults passed in front of us and stood guard on either side of the road. Next came the matriach with a young calf followed by another young adult. The matriach crossed the road with the youngster and headed off into the bush. Then the guard peeled off & followed her.
From then on we've always watched for the body language to dictate what is appropriate. Don't drive right up or worse split the group.
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Correct behavior around Elephants

Unread postby granny » Wed Oct 03, 2012 2:47 pm

Been reading and discussing different opinions on what to do around Elephants in the park. Should one drive slowly slowly away,wait whilst car is idling, or switch off engine completely? If the Elephant is in middle of the road walking towards the car, should one reverse or do one of the above? :hmz:

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Re: Correct behavior around Elephants

Unread postby DuQues » Wed Oct 03, 2012 3:29 pm

All animals (including humans) have different zones, from comfortable to too close (attack!). You can read more in this pdf.
That pdf is more aimed at lions and such, but the principle is the same.

So keep distance, and relax. Observe what the ellie is doing.
If it is eating, no problem.
If it starts ear flapping and/or kicking up dust you are too close.
If the ears flatten and the trunk rolls up it is time to get the hell out of its way. A charge will come!
Now in the last case you may have made not one error (getting too close) but two: turning off the engine.

However you can become enclosed in a herd without knowing it. Then it is a matter of turning off engine and fans. Relax and make photos.
The making photos is one you should do with an eye on the ellies though. Many lenses use an Ultrasonic motor for focusing. You can not hear that sound, ellies can! And they do not like the sound. If you notice them taking offence at it set the lens to manual focus, or stop photographing.

Ellies in the road can force you to reverse. There the zone system comes in again, make sure you reverse far enough, and he/she will soon veer off to a yummy looking branch. And the next, the next, and soon you have the space to pass.
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Re: Correct behavior around Elephants

Unread postby Duke Ellieton » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:15 pm

granny, do you have an entry permit to KNP from one of your trips. There is a section titled, "Elephants - General Rules for safe Viewing"

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Re: Correct behavior around Elephants

Unread postby DuQues » Wed Oct 03, 2012 4:19 pm

That pdf can be found here but lacks my tip about the photography. ;)
Not posting much here anymore, but the photo's you can follow here There is plenty there.

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