Not so long ago I wrote about an incident where a Lion attacked a guest on a Walk in Victoria Falls. My main concern was that these are wild animals, we are in their territory and are WE not putting ourselves at risk, despite all the safety precautions, if something does go wrong? It is our decision to embark on this kind of activity. It is our decision to put ourselves in the path of wild animals, no matter how rehabilitated they are!
Sadly an attack took place this weekend at a well accredited establishment along the Garden Route in South Africa. This elephant sanctuary is popular with visitors to South Africa and particularly families. Here you have the opportunity of interacting with elephants. You can get incredibly close to them in this free-range controlled environment. There are numerous activities on offer from feeding and walking, to riding, sunrise and sunset encounters. There are activities for adults and children – and this sanctuary is a haven for education.
The attack this weekend was, according to eye witnesses, completely unprovoked. Visitors to the centre were feeding other elephants when suddenly trumpeting was heard. They looked around and witnessed a park ranger being flung into the air and trampled on by an enraged bull. The attack lasted approximately 10 minutes. Colleagues of the man being attacked tried desperately to lure the elephant away but this had little effect, except putting themselves at risk.
The man is in a serious condition in hospital but has survived the attack. Eye witnesses have been left traumatized and helpless. Children witnessed this event. We forget when we see animals in this sort of environment how wild and strong and fast they really are. Elephants are huge, we don’t think they can move fast because of their size – but they will catch you before you have worked out which way to go. Their trunks look “cute” and are fascinating – but they can be dangerous weapons.
Elephants have had a tough battle against the human population. From hunting and poaching for their ivory, being trained for circuses and shows, being inhumanly treated in some countries, used domestically in others and then of course being enclosed in zoos. The tales are never ending and most will bring tears to your eyes.
However, there is some wonderful work that has been done around the world in understanding these giants. People have given up their lives to interact, rehabilitate, relocate and study. There is so much information out there for us, and yet, an unprovoked attack like this can still take place.
Sometimes I think we have lost our respect for the wild. This is something I am always conscious of – in my own vehicle or someone else’s, in a private reserve or a public one, in a rehabilitation centre or an education centre.
In Africa or anywhere else in the world!