Skip to Content

Predators/ open or closed windows?

Discuss and find information on the Kruger National Park
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:44 pm
Location: jhb

INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by alleycat » Wed Jan 04, 2012 11:27 pm

I'm your latest member who has been following all your tales and interesting topics for probably 2 years :redface:
I must say, its a wonderful forum with great discussion you don't find in the bookstores.
Its taken me this long to finally reg. and ask my question about a topic that's always bugged me.
thanks for the enjoyment over the years!!

I have seen pictures on the forum of a mother leopard that clearly targeted the driver with aggressive behaviour when she was separated from her cub accidentally btw Orpen and Satara.
The leopard that was released in Kenya that attacked the ranger after he antagonised it, well documented , clearly targeted the cab where his window wasn't closed in time.
The video on this forum where a male lion, mating, clearly charged at the passenger window which was open, ignition was off resulting in a major scare for the forumite,and my personal experience where you just know that the lion you're observing can see you by the way they stare into your eyes and was also mock charged by a lone male lion from 25 meters who focusing on the drivers window.

I'm almost convinced the animals knew on these examples given, that they weren't targeting a chunk of metal.

Here's my query, is it that the animals are in a certain state of mind, relaxed, when we generally see them, and when stressed could quite easily target an open vehicles occupants or worse a chair protruding past the radiator.
I ask this because I've never felt vulnerable on night drives etc but evidence surely points to the possibility that an open window in the vicinity of dangerous animals is not clever, Iv'e seen visitors windows open literally nose to nose with predators? :shock: clicking away :cam:

is it safe on open vehicles and windows down? or are we chancing our arm when close to dangerous game?

Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 809
Joined: Sun Apr 12, 2009 6:20 am

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by threedogs » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:41 am

Personally, I believe that each animal has individual characteristics and their mood and behaviour can change from day to day or minute to minute depending of many factors.
I never, ever have the window fully down when in close proximity to predators.
At most it may be down about 15cm - enough to focus the camera through and no more!
It is when you are complacent and make too many assumptions that things can go wrong.

User avatar
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 995
Joined: Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:36 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Nungu » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:31 am

Interesting question - and one I'm still forming an opinion on.... but I have an add-on to your question -
What's the difference between a charging lion trying to get at you through an open window vs. a closed one?
I cannot see that a sheet of glass is gonna help you much... except that the reflection of a charging lion in the glass might distract him for a (brief) second??
Have you seen KNP from the SKY yet??

Member No. 15342

User avatar
Posts: 16215
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:31 pm
Location: Tinley Manor, KZN North Coast, South Africa

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Elsa » Thu Jan 05, 2012 9:50 am

Hi and a warm welcome alleycat, glad you decided to register and join in the chatting.

You raise a very good point and as I'm not an expert on animal behaviour all my replies will be based on my own personal experience and observations.

I would say from a distance the animals see the car and not the occupants unless someone breaks the outline of the vehicle by protruding thereby making it obvious.

When close to dangerous animals, Lions, Leopards and Ellies and I mean right next to the car, we do close the windows.
Whether this helps or not I do not know but possibly the scent of humans is reduced and maybe the glass does act as some sort of barrier which the animal will not be perturbed about.
But having said that once a full blown charge is initiated I doubt whether the window is going to make much difference.

As for being on an open game vehicle, I guess they can see you, maybe the height of the truck gives some sort of protection but doubtful on that one.
I do think they have become somewhat used to people and unless provoked, mating, with young, will remain passive, mostly!

I recall a couple of years ago being out on a night drive from B & D and we were parked next to the 4 male Lion coalition that was active in the area at that time.

It was already dark at this stage and the guide asked us to all remain dead still and not make any sudden moves but a couple of people on the truck just wouldn't listen and kept on getting up and leaning over to take pics, despite his repeated requests.

Every time they did this the Lions most definitely took an interest in us and the one even looked as if he might try his luck.

Eventually my daughter and I who were sitting directly behind the guide asked him to please move on as we were becoming increasingly anxious at the Lion's behaviour that was changing from passive interest to slightly more aggressive and he did quickly as I think he was fed up with the guests who wouldn't obey instructions and he told us afterwards that he was also worried about the Lions behaviour.

But really bottom line is that the animals are wild and unpredictable and that is what we have to bear in mind at all times and behave accordingly.

Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:44 pm
Location: jhb

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by alleycat » Thu Jan 05, 2012 12:46 pm

Thanks for your views Elsa, Threedogs and Nungu,

I think you make sence in that if I think about it, in each eg. the animals were upset and showed some warning signs, flattened ears, growling, tail swishing before taking it up a notch.
I believe that the animals are aware of us on or in vehicles, our smell alone must be a give away.
I've felt that feeling you had Elsa where you're not quite sure what the animals going to do next.
I agree Nungu, the window aint going to help if they really mean business.

Without being silly about this as i know of no incedants where they've actually jumped into cars, maybe thats because weve moved off after seeing the obvious distress signs.
Still cant get my head round being able to approach dangerous game in open vehicles where they clearly see and smell us, maybe the rangers and guides are doing a good job reading the signs, and our animals are behaving themselves, I'll keep my window up, thanks.

User avatar
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 282
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:31 pm
Location: Not to far to drive bet yet to close to fly. Roodepoort

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Radman » Thu Jan 05, 2012 1:52 pm

alleycat wrote: I'll keep my window up, thanks.

Welcome aboard and revealing yourself :mrgreen:

Up or down don't think it rely matters seeing that a male lion can strike at a force of 1 ton so I really don't think that thin piece of glass will help :hmz:

I think it is always wise to look at there body language If they give you a sign that they are irritated move along its the same as humans if you don't read the person correctly you will have trouble coming your way :big_eyes: :whistle:
Travel Report 08 June-25June2012 Pretoriuskop-Letaba


User avatar
Posts: 16215
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:31 pm
Location: Tinley Manor, KZN North Coast, South Africa

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Elsa » Thu Jan 05, 2012 2:02 pm

alleycat wrote:I'll keep my window up, thanks.
I hope that doesn't apply to when you are driving around normally in the park alleycat, otherwise you would be missing out on such a huge amount of the whole experience.
The sights, sounds & smells all contribute to the pleasure of being in the wild. :thumbs_up:

User avatar
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1406
Joined: Sat Jun 30, 2007 1:16 pm
Location: Fairest Cape

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by p@m » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:56 pm

My opinion -- the cause of most of the stress in the predators is the fact that people go too close :rtm: They do not respect the animals' space. Stop further away, size up the situation and then go closer if you must. Even people hate to be crowded :lol:

User avatar
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 5215
Joined: Wed Jun 09, 2010 9:41 am
Location: dreaming of the bush

Re: I'm thinking of! (RV)

Unread post by wildflowergirl » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:15 pm

Good question!!! I'll rather close my window in the area of predators, but surely as said by others above if they mean business it's not gonna help much.
It does help if you are able to read the distress signs, if we as humans were to know all the signs that animals can give us.
If i look at my own cats, i think they have their moods.
The one day the cat will be all happy and purring etc the next day she'll just walk past, bite me and walk away!?!?
You might get me out of the bush, but you won't get the bush out of me, it's deep in my heart

User avatar
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 2761
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 3:44 pm
Location: Welkom Free State RSA

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Rooies » Fri Jan 06, 2012 4:55 pm

To come back to the original question, look at the statistics.
How many people have been killed or injured whilst on a SANParks game drive or their own?
Your chances to be hit by a drunken driver is 1000 times more than being attacked by a lion while you are on a game drive.
I have the privilege to go to a private reserve next to Kruger and there they use OSV's without canvas roofs, side panels and with no windscreen.
We have stopped within 5 metres of mating lions without any incident.

The bottom line is, don't push your luck, don't go to close to the animals, check if their behaviour changes when you approach them, don't drive between an animal and its offspring, do not antagonise them by throwing stones at them.
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on its way---African saying
Member nr 8512
Cheetah supporterPURIST and proud thereof

Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:44 pm
Location: jhb

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by alleycat » Sat Jan 07, 2012 12:18 am

Thanks for the advice all
Rooies, I have also been on one of those trips where the guide told a story of a male lion that sniffed his jacket, he kept dead still and asked that no one move or talk, this prior to doors being installed, the lion then backed up and proceeded to scent mark the ranger.
He washed his jacket and the next game drive he encountered a different pride male who began growling and threatening the ranger.
He quickly realised that the lion was identifying the smell still on the jacket,needless to say he got a new one and they now fit doors to the rovers. True story. :|

Rayk has posted a pic on a similar thread, see safety tips coming across large animals in your car, which illustrates the degree we can show ourselves and I'm now of the opinion that our actions and their state of mind plays a roll.
We intentionally or innocently sometimes provoke them, i would not like to be on that front seat if a mother leopard is upset.

Ive decided a long lens, with the window down just enough, so i don't miss out on the smells Elsa :P , and keep an eye on the signs and all should be good.

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 13623
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:28 am
Location: Pretoria, RSA

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Imberbe » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:04 am

Interesting discussion.
If one wonders whether you are safe in an open vehicle, well obviously it is easier for the animal to reach you should it choose to.
But as Rooies mentioned, look at the scoreboard ...

Now for an interesting test.
Just get off that same vehicle and see the difference!
OK most of us will not do it, but take people walking in the bush.
The reactions of animals are totally different when they see people walking even at a distance, as opposed to people in a vehicle at close range.

Obviously none of us have as yet succeeded in reading animal minds.
But out of studying their behaviour, it seems as if they see passengers and the vehicle as a unit.
It is not that they are unaware of the people inside, only that they are not seen as individuals.

I have seen aggravated animals take on a vehicle, without giving particular attention to the people inside. And yes, if people act in certain ways, they can be targeted, but probably as part of the vehicle.

Apart from elephant, I am as a general rule quite comfortable getting close to most animals.
Obviously not in a way which causes discomfort to the animal!
But it is important to watch their behaviour and act accordingly.

I disagree with opinions which have been expressed that you should keep your vehicle running near elephant.
I understand that people are intimidated by elephant.
They are however generally more relaxed when a vehicle is switched off.
But again, the behaviour should be read before switching off.
Obviously this implies some knowledge and understanding of their behaviour.
Imberbe = Combretum imberbe = Leadwood = Hardekool = The spirit of the Wildernis!

"Wilderness cannot be conquered, it becomes part of you and enriches your soul."

Want to know more about the SANParks Honorary Rangers? Visit

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 12562
Joined: Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:22 am
Location: Midway between the infinite and the infinitesimal!

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by onewithnature » Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:32 am

Indeed interesting discussion.
I have seldom been nervous of having an open window near predators, but that has been aided by their mostly relaxed attitudes while watching them.
Nevertheless, I do not protrude out of the vehicle when dangerous animals are close by as I have seen many documentaries at how quickly these wild animals can move if they want to.
And I don't agree with private reserves having fully open vehicles and sitting a few metres from a dangerous animal - the risk is too great: all it takes is that one cantankerous individual to upset the statistics!

Furthermore, I know that, if a lion or leopard - or indeed an elephant, rhino, or hippo - actually decided to attack an occupant of a vehicle (you never know why they might do these things and humans are not good at accurately reading animal intentions), you would barely be able to move in response to their charge, let alone get that vehicle away from them!
If the animal has intent - which, thankfully to-date, very few have had in Kruger - we stand little chance at avoiding them!
They are expert hunters, and with game that is much faster and alert than we are - the average human is virtually helpless in such situations.

I have had a few situations that have recently altered my behaviour around dangerous animals in the wild.
I once had a lioness with cubs stare directly into the driver's window not more than half a metre from the open window - at that moment, I fully understood what rooted to the spot with fear actually means.
Recently, at a sighting of lions near Orpen, the male had a most unnerving stare that penetrated directly into the eyes of my girlfriend.
She is an experienced Kruger visitor, but she shrunk behind the window frame to avoid his gaze, which was not that of a relaxed predator, but rather one which looked hungry for human flesh.
We have no doubt that he recognised what was in the car!
I have also read of a few mites who had close encounters with cats, so tend to be more wary when viewing these creatures up close.

I also tend mostly to switch my engine off near elephants as they seldom have responded aggressively to
a quiet vehicle nearby.
However, if the elephant has showed intention with other cars, I tend to be more wary and keep more distance, and sometimes do keep the engine running.
On a night-drive several years ago, an elephant (mock)charged us and the guide insisted on high-revving the truck's engine and simultaneously banging the metal of his door with his palm, thereby making a huge racket to presumably scare the elephant off.
I must say that it didn't work, and I haven't seen another guide who did this in the presence of an aggressive elephant.
For me, if an elephant starts nonsense with us, I get out of there as gently and quickly as I can, without enraging him further.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." (Groucho Marx)

User avatar
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Jun 22, 2008 10:54 am
Location: Pretoria, South Africa

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by duplespj » Sat Jan 07, 2012 6:23 am

Interesting topic and wish to post a personal experience on this topic:

At the Nhlanguleni Picnic Spot, on the S36, NKP, a male with three female lions were lying next to the water looking at the picnic spot (+/-150m), taking a relaxed interest in activities in and around the picnic spot.
The ranger, on site, requested all people to remain in their vehicles.
As normal, you will get the odd "Rambo" ignoring instructions and disrespecting fellow game watchers.
He got out of his vehicle and loudly "requesting" the pride to get up.
They did "obliged" to his request and ran the opposite way, into the bushes.

This brings me to the conclusion that predators (and other animals) are used to vehicles and do see the occupants as part of a unit.
They do not experience a vehicle as a thread as no, or little, harm were done to animals from passing or standing vehicles.
As soon as that picture (unit) is disturbed their first reaction will be to take evasive action and if still threatened, they will attack.
If we respect animals in their environment, they will respect us in our enclosed environment (vehicle)
Piet du Plessis

User avatar
Meandering Mouse
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Forumite of the year - Eagle Award (2016)
Award: Angel of the Year (2015)
Posts: 17756
Joined: Tue Jun 07, 2005 8:47 pm
Location: meandering between senility and menopause

Re: INTRO and opinion on long awaited question

Unread post by Meandering Mouse » Sat Jan 07, 2012 7:24 am

A few years back a Leopard was shot close to Olifants for trying to climb into someone's window.
It turned out to be ill.
The bush is predictably, "unpredictable".
I was staying at Roodewal at the time and it caused a lot of speculation.

Over the years I have learnt to be more respectful and have never had a problem.
Unfortunately there are many "Rambos" around and that can often lead to tragedy.

On my last visit, I seemed to detect better behaviour all around.
I wonder if the alcohol ban has meant that fewer people are likely to be fueled by a conversation with Johnny Walker.
Maybe there are also fewer people entering the Park with the sole purpose of a day of drinking and making trouble.

Stories that frighten me more are of snakes climbing into engines.
Having been in a camp once when this happened, I am a lot more cautious around these slippery customers. I have been in a situation where a very angry Moz spitting Cobra was out on a mission.
Bucky also tells a story of his side mirror being struck by an angry Black Mamba.
The bird doesn't sing because it has answers, it sings because it has a song.

Return to “Kruger National Park”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Webcam Highlights

Submitted by Tazrules229 at 19:29:49
Submitted by CindyC at 17:26:54
Submitted by Sweet Lioness at 18:58:29
Submitted by Sabina01 at 00:19:12