Just yesterday, I was telling a friend that my dream trip is to take my kids on an African safari. I’ve been fortunate to have gone on a few, once in South Africa and the other two in Kenya and Tanzania. Getting up close to exotic animals in their natural habitat is life changing. What’s also life changing is what happened this week in Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa.

A bull elephant charged and lifted a 22-seat safari truck with his trunk several times. It was all caught on camera thanks to bystander Hendry Blom, who later told ABC News: “We were definitely scared, especially for the people in the truck because we thought they might die.”

YouTube video

In the video, the driver can be heard yelling for the elephant to “go away” and banging his hand against the side of the truck to try and scare the animal away. One commenter on YouTube asked what many are probably thinking: “So, what prevented the driver from reversing and getting away from the elephant? Did he think all that yelling would scare that majestic thing away?”

This is why you leave safety to the experts because most people, including myself, would have tried to drive away. The guide’s actions were widely praised by wildlife experts because he revved the engine, slammed the trucks doors and shouted to ward the elephant away.

A manager of the tour company involved in the incident, Mankwe Game Trackers, said the guide reacted “by the book.” Ron Magill, communications director at Zoo Miami, agrees: “Anyone that’s worked with elephants will tell you when a bull like that charges, you don’t turn and run, you need to make as much noise and stand your ground.”

So why did this happen? According to Mogodiri, the male elephant was in musth and some of the tourists came too close to take pictures, which in turn made the animal become aggressive.

I’ll save you from looking up the word musth. Wikipedia defines it as: “Musth or must is a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.”

Fortunately, no one was injured, though Mankwe Game Trackers told ABC News that one family had been offered counseling after being left “extremely rattled.”

One of the top comments on social media quipped, “Talk about value for money! Now that’s a Safari ride!” Easy for them to say from the safety of their home.

Others pointed out how powerful elephants are. I’ve seen an elephant’s strength firsthand on a safari and watched them rip trees out of the ground like they were twigs. “Shows how powerful those animals are. He lifted that truck like it was nothing.” Of course, there were some funny lines too like, “Even Chuck Norris would have problems with that elephant.”


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