EXTRACT FROM THE FOLLOWING THIRD PARTY SOURCE: Written By: Zainul Dawood and Kamcilla Pillay for iol News
Two French tourists had a close encounter with an elephant bull on Tuesday at the Hluhluwe Game Reserve when it rammed into their car, leaving a gaping hole in the driver’s door and buckling the dashboard.
Jeff Asher-Wood, of EuroZulu Guided Tours and Safaris, posted on his Facebook page that an elephant bull in musth pushed a Toyota Corolla to the side of the road. Wood said when he got there, the young French couple were still in the car, shaken but unhurt. He arranged another car for them and informed the park authorities of the incident.
“The French tourists joined us for the rest of the day. They told me that as they came around the corner, they encountered the elephant walking on the road at which time they started reversing and he moved off the road. They then stopped when he was parallel with them. At that moment he (the elephant) turned and hit the car,” Wood said.
“They should have continued reversing. The elephant would have moved on, but the mistake they made was to stop. At the end of the day they are okay and the elephant walked away uninjured. I believe this was a case of inexperienced people being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he added.
The door was badly damaged with the metal exposed, and the force buckled the dashboard. The driver’s side view mirror came off and there was another hole on the door frame. The window had also shattered. The front of the car was off the road.
Speaking to the Daily News on Wednesday, Annemarie Asher-Wood said her husband was the first person at the scene. “He was in that area with a tour group and he saw the car on the side of the road. The couple was still inside.”
Annemarie runs the Avis car rental centre, where the couple rented the vehicle, and said the woman in particular was “shaken up” and “upset”.
“Afterwards, we had the car towed and Jeff included them with the tour group. They saw another elephant… the couple was afraid at first, but they relaxed a bit after that.”
She warned tourists that if they saw an elephant flapping its ears, or showing any other signs of aggression, to reverse away from the animal. “We are in their home, so we must be respectful.”
Also on the game drive was Gavin Udal of Wendy’s Country Lodge, Mtubatuba, who said he saw a second vehicle pushed off the road in a different area on the Sontuli loop. “Both cars are rental vehicles with foreign tourists. I do not know the circumstances or wish to even speculate what transpired. I took photos with my cellphone very soon after each incident occurred,” Udal said.
Ezemvelo KZN wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, said the organisation was putting together a report of what happened during the incidents. “As far as we know, the tourists stopped to take pictures instead of reversing away when the animal got too close. The animal could have seen this as a provocation,” he said on Wednesday.
He explained that elephants during this period were highly strung during musth, but urged caution around the large mammals at all times. “It is not common but it does happen. These are wild animals. They are unpredictable.”
He said that, despite signage around the park warning against the use of flash photography, some tourists still committed the offence. Some tourists also revved their vehicles, causing panic or aggression among animals. “I’m not saying this is what happened in this case, but they are some of the reasons animals attack.”