A close encounter with elephants


The Ingwelala Shareblock in the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve adjoining the Kruger National Park is home to two Landrover game drive vehicles that have been perforated by elephant tusks. The first vehicle was parked and empty when it underwent elephant panel beating. The second, however, was occupied by two people when it was remoulded. Alistair Leuner and a friend decided to watch the sun go down at Peru Dam on the main road in Ingwelala when they had a moonlit elephant encounter. "… all of a sudden we heard the sound of a twig breaking …

I turned around and in the moonlight saw an enormous grey shape, it was about three metres from the vehicle, which was parked on the side in a sort of ditch so we couldn't move." Initially thinking it was a lone bull, the occupants of the Landrover were surprised by another 14 elephants, including babies, which all stood in the road about a metre and a half from the vehicle. "The matriarch came in for a closer inspection on the driver's side where my friend was sitting and she then put her trunk on the steering wheel and on his back.

We just sat there, dead still and she moved away but as she went she kicked the back of the vehicle with quiet aggression. By this stage our hearts were in our mouths but after the kick she, together with some of the herd, moved to the back of the Landrover and investigated our cooler box. While this was happening another elephant from the herd came round the front of the vehicle and started pushing us down the road, she hit us twice in the front with quite a force but after that she just left us and walked into the bush." "But it still wasn't over, as she was leaving a third elephant proceeded to the front of the vehicle, smelt the spare tyre and spat on it.

She then came to my side of the Landrover … she stood there for a while before hitting the body of the Landi above the front tyre, its head rocking the car quite forcibly. On the second attempt it moved even closer and hit the body work again, with a lot more force this time… With its third attempt it moved to the rear view mirror and put its tusk through the body work.

"By this stage I thought it was all over for us especially when it lined up with the door, took a few steps back and moved quickly towards the door where I was sitting, but it stopped about 10cm away, and its tusks were then over the door inside the car about five centimetres away from me! I could see the hairs on its eyelids it was so close." The elephant stared at them, made low rumbling noises and moved off. "It was certainly something I will never forget but at the same time I don't ever want to go through an experience like that again."



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