A curious bull elephant gave two French tourists the fright of their lives on Tuesday morning when one of its tusks pierced the car they were driving.
The Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park elephant was believed to have strolled out from the bushes and onto the road where a French couple in their early twenties were driving.
The wife of Eurozulu Guided Tours and Safaris guide Jeff Asher-Wood, who was first at the scene, said all indications pointed to the elephant being more curious than aggressive. The elephant was reportedly in musth (a hormonal condition often associated with aggressive behaviour in bull elephants).
“I got a call from Jeff at 09:30 on Tuesday and he told me that a French couple in their twenties had their car pierced by a bull elephant’s tusk. He told me that when he arrived they were still sitting in the car, in complete shock,” Annemarie Asherwood said.
She said from what she understood, the elephant had walked from out of the bush into the road, and the couple began reversing before stopping the car. That was when the elephant approached.
“The elephant surprised them and I think they both got a big fright but thank goodness they, and the elephant are okay.”
She said although the elephant had pierced the driver’s door with its tusk, if it had acted out of aggression there would have been more damage done to the car.
“It would have stood on it and thrashed it about, but this was not the case,” she said.
Zululand Adventures owner and wildlife photographer Gavin Udal said bull elephants in musth experience an increase in testosterone levels of almost 90% and could not be expected to “think straight”.
“You can spot an elephant in musth by urine dribbling down his legs, weeping from a gland above his eye (like tears) and the shaking of his head. Those are all warning signs that the elephant is about to charge.”
KwaZulu-Natal Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesperson Musa Mntambo said the elephants in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, like all the animals in the reserve, are wild.
“We cannot predict how they are going to act, therefore it is best to stay as far away from the animal as far as possible and not agitate the animal with loud sounds or flash photography.”