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Breaking News! La Selva Station Director charged by wild African elephants three times but survives to tell the tale!

Do you want to get your heart racing and experience an adrenaline boost that lasts for hours? Sit in an open safari vehicle and have a wild elephant come running at you with mean intentions in her or his mind. African elephants are touchy creatures. Magnificent in their natural environment, they are a major force as they trample, crush, and forage through the African ecosystems. Encountering a herd of females and young is thrilling enough, but when their mood strikes them (or when they interpret your presence as a threat), things can get dicey fast.

At the Gorongosa National Park, in Mozambique, we had our first wild elephant encounter. A herd of females and young foraged placidly in a small forest that faced a clearing. We had tracked their fresh spoor (read gigantic droppings) for about an hour and finally we were within sight. What was not in sight was the other half of the herd, which came thundering from the left getting everyone, elephants and humans, excited and all worked up. The matron elephant energetically charged our vehicle but, as it is often the case, she stopped a few feet from it, having demonstrated amply and convincingly her power over us puny primates. The second charge, predicted by our driver Castro Morais, happened as we left the site. A female that had stayed behind the group during the initial encounter came charging from the rear and chased our vehicle at high speed. Close call, but no prize for the sneaky elephant.

Finally, the last charge happened as we explored the Kruger National Park, in South Africa. We drove our rental car on the park’s paved and unpaved roads, encountering elephants, giraffes, zebras, and many other animals. Most elephants we saw foraged placidly, many so close to us that you could almost touch them. On one turn of the road we faced a pair of male elephants that were engaged in some unpleasantries with each other. The larger of the two took exception to our surprise interruption, reared up like a circus elephant, and came charging at us. All we could do was put the car in reverse and zoom out of there until we could safely turn around or wait until Mr. Sympathy got tired of chasing us. We drove in reverse for almost a mile and a half!

Wild animals can often be unpredictable and elephants have long memories. However, these individuals will likely soon forget us while we will remember them for the rest of our lives.

Last Updated ( 05/15/17 )
Organization for Tropical Studies
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