Safari-goers’ journey halted as ‘angry elephant’ blocks the road, attacks passengers

A vehicle carrying passengers was lifted a few metres into the air by the elephant. Screengrab

A vehicle carrying passengers was lifted a few metres into the air by the elephant. Screengrab

Published Mar 22, 2024



Durban — A group of safari-goers’ journey was halted after an “angry elephant” blocked the road and attacked passengers on board an open-air vehicle at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Video clips of the incident which were posted on the social network TikTok have garnered more than 44.3 million views.

The videos posted by user Henry Blom show a couple of angles on the incident: a distant shot shows the vehicle carrying passengers being lifted a few metres into the air by the elephant while the vehicle driver’s shouts can be heard.

@hendryblom Drove around and found out #safari #southafrica #wildlife #elephant ♬ original sound - Hendry Blom

An inside POV (point of view) shows an elephant blocking the pathway of a safari vehicle and then charging ahead, lifting and almost flipping the vehicle. The passengers’ cries and prayers are heard as the elephant charges at the vehicle for a second time.

The driver is captured shouting “sorry” and “enough now” in an attempt to de-escalate the situation while enduring impact from the elephant.

Game manager Moremi Keabetswe said they are still investigating the matter to find out the behavioural cause of the animal, but suspects it to be the musth stage.

Musth is described as a natural phenomenon seen in healthy adult bull elephants. It is characterised by the secretion of a hormone-rich substance called temporin from the temporal gland (on either side of the elephant’s head) and a steady trickle of urine down the back legs of the elephant and it involves a rise in the reproductive hormones in the elephant’s body.

This causes the animal to feel more restless, energetic, aggressive or unpredictable – and generally irritable and oversensitive to sounds and movements. This stage is periodic.

Moremi said: “I want to know whether it’s a normal reaction for the elephant to behave like that or not. There is a stage called musth at which the elephant in that state will behave awkwardly, they get stressed and start to show signs of unsettlement and they will begin to fight whatever they come across.”

He added: “We will be doing an investigation on the elephant to see if it was not at any stage provoked. We will have to do a follow-up to see if it’s still behaving the same way when it comes across a vehicle because we don’t want to get into the festive season with such an elephant in the game reserve.”

Moremi said they would not get rid of the elephant but rather advise safari-goers to avoid taking certain paths.

@hendryblom We might win next time at 2 truths and a lie #safari #southafrica #wildlife #elephant ♬ original sound - Hendry Blom

After the altercation the driver is seen backing away from the angry elephant and the elephant does the same.

The game reserve manager said there were no injuries and only the vehicle was damaged. He said two recovery vehicles were sent on site, one to recover the guests and another to tow the open-air vehicle.

Moremi said: “The driver and the guest were interviewed and taken through for counselling, so we are hopeful that something (information) will come out of them after they have recovered fully.”

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