Scientific research suggests that elephants are amongst the most intelligent and sensitive creatures on the planet, with an almost human-like emotional capacity and intricate social structures they are a complex non-human species.
With their population under increasing threat of poaching continent-wide, it is no wonder that in certain areas they have become highly sensitive to human presence.
On a recent game drive with guests in Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, we encountered a matriarchal herd of elephants with two very young calves in their parade.
The matriarch did not take her eyes off us – eyeballing us for a good 20 minutes before she started to become visibly aggravated by our presence.
She took a few paces towards us and let out a shrill trumpet blast, standing tall and spreading her ears out wide to make herself appear bigger. The whole herd came together and with a dozen elephants around her, the matriarch led the herd into a mock charge.
They started running towards us and we thought we were far enough away but the elephants covered the 15m distance in a matter of strides!
Our driver started the vehicle and drove us away, the herd then chased us for a good 50m further, making 100% sure that we were on our way.
You can typically distinguish a mock charge from a real one:
During a mock charge the elephant will rush towards an adversary or predator while standing tall and spreading its ears, making itself appear bigger and more intimidating. It will stop short of its target and be visibly distressed, swinging its trunk forward or aggressively kicking dust as it abruptly stops. A mock charge is often associated with the shrill trumpet blast.