EcoTraining elephant attack south africa
Elephant charging in South Africa.

Three terrified eco-students had a miracle escape in South Africa when their safari truck was attacked by a six-tonne elephant bull in musth, and rammed off the road. The elephant became enraged when two vehicles came a little too close to its breeding herd on the Selati Game Reserve near Hoedspruit and the Kruger National Park.

As the incredible videos, filmed by an eco-student in the second vehicle, show, the elephant clearly displayed its displeasure with ears flaring, and then flattening its ears and ramming its tusks into the vehicle as it charges. The guide on the viewing seat in front of the bonnet had to jump out for his life to avoid the elephant’s tusks.

Slicing its tusks through the bodywork of the safari truck like a knife through butter, the elephant lifts the 11-seater vehicle off the ground and pushes it off the road. With screams heard from the three female students on board throughout the 30 second attack, by the world’s largest animal, they are clearly all in fear of their lives.

Fortunately just as the safari truck is on the point of being rolled over the bull elephant breaks off its attack, trumpets, and stands defiantly in front of them.

A brave guide from the second safari truck runs to help the three girls who are frozen with fear in their seats, shouting “get out, get out, get out” and rescues them.

He orders them to run to the safety of his truck, keeping the wrecked first safari truck between them and the bull elephant, as the guide and spotter also escape.

The terrified occupants of the vehicle were taken back to the safari lodge and have received counselling but were fortunately unhurt. The wrecked safari vehicle was later recovered by staff.

EcoTraining has confirmed the “unfortunate incident” in a statement on social media. “On a routine activity, the EcoTraining instructors and trainees came across a breeding herd of elephants. The vehicle stopped to observe the elephants and give them a chance to settle down,” said EcoTraining’s MD Anton Lategan.

“An elephant bull, who was with the breeding herd, mock charged the vehicle. The elephant bull mock charged again, when they moved forward slowly, and then made contact with the game drive vehicle and displaced it off the road.”

EcoTraining elephant attack vehicle
Elephant attack left the vehicle rather damaged. Photo: FB / Georg Knoke

EcoTraining said once the vehicle had come to a standstill, the trainees were moved to the second vehicle that was parked within close proximity.

“Both EcoTraining instructors that accompanied the trainees have more than 25 years of experience in the field,” EcoTraining said in a statement on Tuesday.

The General Manager of Selati Game Reserve, Bryan Havemann, was contacted shortly after the incident and visited the scene to assess the situation. Havemann said “although the vehicle was damaged, thankfully none of the people on the vehicle were injured.”

EcoTraining confirmed that all the people involved in the incident have received professional counselling after the incident.

“Elephant bulls in musth experience high levels of testosterone and may display aggressive behaviour,” explained the statement.

Bull elephants, when they are ready to breed with the cows in the herd, go into what is called musth where their testosterone level can multiply by up to 60 times. They can become sexually aggressive and highly violent towards humans, and they secrete a tar-like discharge on the side of their heads which warns of their sexual arousal.

The herbivores, which spend most of the day eating, are in musth for 2 to 3 months once a year when they cover as many females as possible and fight off their rivals. During this period, elephant bulls have been known to attack villages in Africa, and elephants – mainly in musth – reportedly trample or crush to death 500 people a year on the continent.

EcoTraining is based at the 18,000 acre Selati Game Reserve which is home to 135 elephants as well as black and white rhinos and lions, leopard and cheetah..

In 2018 a top safari ranger and wildlife photographer Mark Lautenbach, 33, was trampled to death by a bull elephant in full musth. The elephant had broken into a game park lodge and was on a rampage when Mark tried to move it away from a tourist area at the Leopard Rock Lodge on the Madikwe Game Reserve by the Kruger.

Elephants live up to 70 years and at 25mph can outrun a human. The only advice insiders give if you need to escape is to run in a zigzag and try get behind trees or boulders.

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