SKUKUZA – A great photo opportunity turned into a life-threatening experience when a couple’s vehicle was attacked by an enraged elephant in the KrugerNational Park late yesterday afternoon.
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Mr Jans de Klerk (a South African living in the UK) and Ms Sarah Brooks (a UK citizen) were driving in the southern part of the KNP along the N’waswitshaka Waterhole, south of the Phabeni tar road.
They spotted an elephant bull and followed it at what they thought was a safe following distance (30 to 40 metres), and took a video of the animal as it ambled along.
It suddenly turned around, walked rapidly towards them. They decided the best option was to remain stationary. They only started moving the vehicle away when the elephant broke into a full charge, but it was too late. The bull started attacking the vehicle and flipped it over about 20 metres into thick bush.
When the car lodged against a tree, the elephant continued attacking the vehicle for some time before walking away.
The attack was so savage that eyewitnesses were convinced that the occupants had been killed. They did not want to approach the vehicle in fear of the elephant that was still in the area.
They instead rushed to Skukuza to report the incident. A passing motorist assisted the victims, some 25 minutes later.
After rangers were notified, a helicopter was dispatched and arrived within minutes of the alert. The couple was airlifted to Skukuza, where they received emergency treatment from park doctors.
De Klerk, was in shock but sustained only minor injuries, while Brooks was not so lucky. One of the elephant’s tusks had ripped open the back of her upper thigh.
The doctors recommended she be taken to hospital and the two victims were airlifted to Mediclinic Nelspruit.
In the meantime, rangers went to look for the elephant, fearing it could attack again. It was located a few metres from the attack site, with another tourist vehicle in close proximity. Rangers managed to get the vehicle to safety and isolated the elephant before it was shot dead.
According to Mr Ike Phaahla, a SANParks media specialist, various factors were taken into account before the animal was shot.
The elephant’s aggression levels were very high due. One of the rangers also noticed that it was injured and deduced that it had probably been in a fight over territory prior to the attack.
The aggressive animal also posed a danger to other vehicles, as it was peak season in the park and a high density traffic area. Regular day walks are also conducted in the area, which would have put walkers in danger as well.
Phaahla advises guests to follow the rules of the park. “Remember that you are a guest in their territory. Respect them and keep a good following distance. Animals do not know what vehicle is and will sometimes attack if they feel threatened.
He urged guests to remain in their vehicles, stick to the designated speed limits and to not lean out of windows or stick limbs out while driving through the park. They should also never get out of the vehicles at a sighting as there could be an animal hiding in the surrounding bushes.
Footage has been released, which shows exactly what happened just prior to the elephant attack. Have a look and let us know what you think! After watching this video, do think that it was justified for the rangers to kill the elephant bull? Do you think the tourists had enough time to have made a safe escape?
Watch footage here: