How To Survive An Elephant Attack

What do you do when faced with a charging elephant? Run, hide, or remain perfectly still? Find out the steps that could save your life in the rare but dangerous scenario of an elephant attack.

What do you do when faced with a charging elephant? Run, hide, or stay still? Find out the steps that could save you in an elephant attack.

An African Elephant: How to survive an elephant attack
An African Elephant: Experts Say An Elephant With Ears Fanned Out Like This Will Not Charge You. But It’s Best To Be Very Cautious. (Author: Al Peabody On Flickr cc by 2.0)

Although we humans may be right up there when it comes to intelligence, we score very poorly when it comes to defending ourselves against rampaging animals. Even when we are armed, the chances of survival or escape without any injuries can be almost 50/50.

Different wild animals call for different defense/flight methods. Surely, what would work when trying to escape a gorilla may not work when faced with a wild bear or a shark.

Now what about elephants? Well, it turns out those docile and friendly looking creatures, whether African or Asian elephants, could turn deadly when the situation arises. In fact, a popular documentary by National Geographic called “Elephant Rage,” shows that at least 500 people are killed – every year by charging elephants.

How Does An Elephant Attack People?

Without getting too graphic, an elephant will:

  • Charge at the person.
  • Gore them with its tusks.
  • Trample and crush them underfoot. They usually won’t stop stomping on the person until the victim is completely crushed.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind in the unlikely and unfortunate scenario that an elephant is about to attack you.

7 Tips To Survive An Elephant Attack

1) Listen For A Warning.

Elephants will usually warn you before they attack. They will toot and trumpet loudly.

2) Determine If The Charge Is Real Or Not.

Wildlife experts believe that most charges are in fact mock charges. The elephant doesn’t intend to attack you but just wants to see if you are a threat or not. Knowing the difference between an elephant that is actually going to trample you and one that is making a mock charge could save your life.

Generally, watch out for the following:

  • If the elephant’s ears are fanned out, it indicates a mock charge.
  • If the elephant’s ears are laid back flat against its body, there is a high probability that it is will charge you. In such situations, you may also notice that it will curl up its trunk inwards.

Remember that these two signs are very important in determining a mock charge from a real one.

3) Watch Out For “Displacement Activities.”

Zoologist and National Geographic photographer, Dr. George Schaller, helped to discover what is now commonly referred to as displacement activities. He made these observations while spending time studying elephants.

These displacement activities include trunk twitching, kicking up dust, swinging one leg to and fro, or pawing at the ground.

These kind of posturing indicates fear on the part of the elephant rather than an intention to charge at you. Your best bet would be to back off without running.

4) Be Loud.

If you are loud enough, you may succeed in chasing the elephant away. Shake leaves, shake trees, and rattle objects within your reach.

Note that this may not work in all instances especially if you are confronted by a large bull elephant.

Making nose is more effective when the elephant is making a mock charge.

5) Stand Your Ground.

You also have the option of standing still IF it’s a mock charge. Obviously this is quite difficult and stomach-churning to do when an elephant is thundering down towards you!

An elephant attack is very scary stuff indeed.

Once again, the situation at hand will determine how suitable this action is. However, standing still will discourage the elephant from chasing you.

6) Do Not Turn And Run!

Run Only If You Can Climb A Tree
Run Only If You There Is A Stout Tree Nearby That You Can Climb Quickly.

The chances of serious injury and death are more if you turn your back to a charging elephant and run.

Unless there’s a building of some sort very close to you, believe it that the elephant will catch up with you before you can go far out in the open.

If there’s a vehicle near you and you can drive off very fast before the animal reaches you, then go for it. But this is very tricky! You must drive off before the elephant reaches you because it can very well flip the car over.

Also, running and jumping into water is a big NO, because they swim very well too and there may be other equally dangerous creatures in the water as well.

If your nerves fail you and you must run, don’t run in a straight line.

Running in a zig-zag pattern could confuse the elephant and make it difficult for the animal to keep up with you. That’s because they can’t change direction quickly due to their bulk.

7) Climb Up A Tree And Hold On Tight.

If you can climb, running and going up a stout tree could help. Whichever move you make, ensure you remain downwind of the elephant always.

Be warned! A really angry and determined elephant may try to tear the tree down or knock you out of it. Hold on with all your strength.

Some other things that could scare the elephant away include a fire, and the recorded sound of angry bees. Also, if you are already in a car when you notice it advancing, your best bet is to drive off as fast as you can or rev the engine very loudly with the hopes of scaring it off.

Whatever you do, the aim is to stay alive and come out of such encounters with as few injuries as possible.

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