Elephants kill approximately 500 people every year. With these statistics in mind, imagine not one but two elephants charging at you while trumpeting loudly. Imagine you are in an open vehicle and sitting on the bonnet seat, meaning the elephant will probably begin unleashing its anger on you.  

The hair-raising story sounds like some horrific fictional tale, but it happened in South Africa.

Safari guides at the Kruger National Park found themselves in this uncomfortable situation, but luckily, they were familiar with elephant behaviors and quickly realized that it was a fake charge.  

The unmoved crew remained confident and calm and banged the bonnet to scare the charging beasts only a few feet away from the vehicle.  

One crew member even has the confidence to ask the elephants, “What is wrong with you?”

While mastering the confidence of the safari crew will take most of us a lot of time, a little knowledge of elephant behavior could help save your life.

How Do Elephants Charge?

An elephant’s charge could either be a mock or an attacking charge. 

Several reasons cause it to show this aggressive behavior, ranging from fear to defending itself.

An elephant performs a mock or bluff charge to warn invaders from advancing any closer to it. The elephant uses this charge to investigate whether you are an enemy or pose no danger.  

The elephant also uses this charge to let you know you are overstepping your boundaries. 

elephant charging
During a mock charge, an elephant will fan its large ears to look bigger than it already is.

Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

Interestingly, an elephant looks scarier when performing a mock charge than a real one. During a mock charge, it will fan its large ears to look bigger than it already is. It will also let its trunk hang loosely down so you can see its entire length. The largest animal on land might also perform some displacement activities. 

Displacement activities involve the elephant swinging one leg frontwards and backward or twitching its trunk. The elephant does these to demonstrate its indecision on whether to attack or scare you away.

Remaining calm, shouting, or making noise is sufficient to let the elephant leave you alone during a mock charge. 

Meanwhile, an elephant will likely attack you if performing a real charge. The elephant will pin its ears back, curl its trunk inwards and upwards and charge straight toward you.

What to Do During a Real Charge

As scary as it is to realize that the elephant is really charging, you must remain calm. If you are in a vehicle, do not get out. Instead, switch off the engine and remain as calm as possible.

The idea here is not to worsen the situation. Instead, you must show the elephants that you pose no threat, so it leaves you alone.

If you are on foot, stand still to show the elephants that you don’t fear it (even though you might be trembling like a leaf). Your confidence will make it think twice and perhaps change its mind about the attack.

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