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Thread: Elephant behaviour during Attack

  1. #1
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    Default Elephant behaviour during Attack

    Too often people don't understand the difference between a mock charge and a serious charge by elephants. Considering that elephants can run at speed of about 30kmph and higher, unless and untill you are at a distance, the likelihood of outrunning the elephant is slim. Ofcourse, it is a different story if you are in a vehicle.

    Raman Sukumar in his book Elephant Days and Nights writes: "The elephant at times does a threat display by fully extending its ears so as to appear even larger, swing its trunk rhythmically, shake its head, or sway its whole body. It may scrape the ground in conjunction with displacement activities, such as gathering mud and grass with its trunk and throwing it over its body"

    I am enclosing an image that displays this behaviour. This image was photographed in Bandipur. This elephant was clearly nervous and then kept on coming closer and closer and finally charged at us.

    Again quoting from Raman Sukumar "An agitated elephant may run a few paces first towards and then away from the enemy, making trumpeting sounds, in an attempt to scare the intruder. If this fails it may launch a more serious attack - a mock charge culminating in an impressive display within a short distance from the enemy".

    In one instance, an elephant was moving downhill and then I chanced upon him on a bend. It displayed similar behaviour, trumpeted and moved a few paces towards us. I reversed. If I would have panicked, then probably while reversing in the narrow winding road, my vehicle would have gone down the cliff into the gorge.

    I also agree with Raman Sukumar that most of the times the matriarch is composed where as the younger females charge. He further states that an elephant may charge without any warning or threat display. So it is better to be cautious.
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  2. #2
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    Default Charging

    When the elephant is charging seriously, the trunk is coiled inwards and the ears are close to the head. This image is from Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  3. #3
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    Default

    Great post Sabyasachi...
    I'm sure lots would get an idea of elephant behaviour from this...

    What to do if you are on foot and there is an elephant chasing u (for real)
    1. Run in opposite direction as fast as you can (Obviously)
    2. If possible try running downhill (elephants can't run downhill bcoz of their size)
    3. Change directions sharply (they cant do that either)
    4. They have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell... so run and possibly hide (make sure the elephant didnt see u hide) and stay downwind to the elephant...(ie direction of wind is from elephant to you)
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.orissawildlife.blogspot.com

  4. #4
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    Default

    Thats a nice informative post. You got good photographs too displaying the behaviour.

    Sometimes the drivers try to iritate the elephant further by getting closer and increasing the speed, so the elephants charge and the photographers can take the shots, which I feel is a bit off the limit.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

  5. #5
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    Default

    Bibhav,
    Usain Bolt has run the 100meters sprint in 9.58 seconds. That means about 37.5 kmph. Considering that an elephant is estimated to be running between 30 to 40 kmph speed, you can't outrun an elephant.

    The other question is the vegetation. An elephant can just brush aside all bushes in its path and maintain its speed. We can't. So unless you are in a man made road, it is a hopeless case.

    People think that they can run behind trees and avoid the elephant. An IFS officer in Bandipur had tried that to his misfortune. It is simply not easy.

    Just try to run for a few feet and hide. The elephant would hear you though you may not think so. D:

    One solution is to run fast and climb a big tree. However, I am not sure how all the city bred wildlife photographers will fare in tree climbing.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

  6. #6
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    Default

    Replies to Bhibav's points:

    1. Run in opposite direction as fast as you can (Obviously)
    Better option. But needs care as elephant herds are usually dispersed and in the opposite direction, you may find one !!!! Ideally, it is better to watch elephants from a respectable distance and give them the comfort level that you have no malice deeds...

    2. If possible try running downhill (elephants can't run downhill bcoz of their size)

    This is untrue. Where man is able to descend, so do elephants. While walking in Anaimalais length and breadth, I have seen elephants negotiating steep slopes. Of course they are cautious. Some times the slopes which elephants climb is too good for us to climb unless otherwise we are sure footed.

    Elephants tends to loose foot mostly during monsoon. They are surefooted rest of the seasons.


    3. Change directions sharply (they cant do that either)

    Won't work in case of determined charge.

    4. They have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell... so run and possibly hide (make sure the elephant didnt see u hide) and stay downwind to the elephant...(ie direction of wind is from elephant to you)

    They find it difficult to locate if we cut our outline. That is if we are suitably camouflaged.

    During most of elephant attacks, the victims were said to have worn strikingly coloured clothes - white dhotis, red banians etc.

    REMEMBER FRIENDS, IN AN ELEPHANT COUNTRY TRIBAL SCOUTS ARE INDISPENSIBLE FOR TREKS. PEOPLE SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE TAKING A STROLL IN ELEPHANT JUNGLES.

  7. #7
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    Default

    Thanks for the info guys
    Regards,
    Bibhav Behera
    www.orissawildlife.blogspot.com

  8. #8
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    Default

    Thanxx for the article...
    Very informative......

    The ears getting outward was a new thing for me......

    Want to Know


    What if we lie down and act as if we are dead...
    Would elephant will still charge on U...???

  9. #9
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    Default

    Ashvary,
    I have not faced this situation and don't know about it. Don't want to face this situation.

    However, Raman Sukumar has mentioned in his book Elephants Days and Nights that one researcher was injured and could not move. So he was lying on the ground expecting to be trampled. However, the elephant threw leaves etc on him as if burying a dead person.

    Are you sure you can pretend to be dead? Your heart would be beating so hard, the elephant would know from a distance.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

  10. #10
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Sabyasachi Patra View Post
    Ashvary,
    I have not faced this situation and don't know about it. Don't want to face this situation.

    However, Raman Sukumar has mentioned in his book Elephants Days and Nights that one researcher was injured and could not move. So he was lying on the ground expecting to be trampled. However, the elephant threw leaves etc on him as if burying a dead person.

    Are you sure you can pretend to be dead? Your heart would be beating so hard, the elephant would know from a distance.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi
    Just related it with elephants because I had heard many times that If U face any bear attacking on U, just lie down and stop breathing....
    He would consider U dead and will leave U...


    Well I guess I Should lie upside down so that the heart beat dont go too loud...

  11. #11

    Default

    While i was at Parambikulam last year on a trek, one of the tribals gave me some info, which i am not sure is authentic or a safe option, but he swore it worked.

    1. While fleeing an elephant charge/attack on foot, strip your clothes and throw them away and keep running - the elephant usually shreds the clothes to pieces following the scent.

    2. Always carry red chilli powder with you and if the elephant gets too close and as a last resort, throw it at it's eyes (if you are still alive until then :-))

    As i said, for all you know, this could be tribal 'Mumbo Jumbo' (pun intended) but who knows, in the west, pepper sprays are known to stop huge grizzly attacks.

    regards
    Rajan

  12. #12
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    Default

    Am not sure of the point no. 2. Its trunk can reach you though the peper spray may not reach the elephant.

    It is true that if you get the time to throw your shirt/ handkerchief etc the elephant is likely to get distracted. The kind of fancy designer clothes are tourists wear in the forests these days, I am sure the elephant would vent its anger on it. However, don't lose time in removing your shirt. May be throw your white canon lens?

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

  13. #13

    Default

    This subject comes up often during Line Transects. Most guys who attend the line for the first time will invariably ask this question and what a senior ( most of whom have been charged while on foot)will have to say is this :

    1.It is very difficult to judge a Mock charge and actual charge and the one can become another at any moment.

    2. Once an elephant charges it decides what happens next . Run and run as fast as you can and if you have enough time climb a tree

    3.All other techniques are as good any other. If any one of them saves you it is simple plain luck.

    4. The chances that you will be charged by an elephant are very Low if you are careful and attentive. Elephants always tend to give their positions up by making enough noise. Ear flapping, shuffling, breaking branches, rumbling Etc.

    5. Even lower are the chances that the animal will come all the way once it charges (in other words mostly it will try to scare you away). Compare this to the probability of being run down on the road every minute after you set foot out of your house in a city. Its probably one to a million.

    6. If somebody is not convinced its best not to attend a line transects he can pack his bags and go home .

    Of course all the above applies with normal wild elephants and not to rogues.

    Thanks
    Roopak

  14. #14
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  15. #15
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    Default

    Hi,

    Elephants can definitely take sharp turns even at high speeds I have witnessed this and the idea of taking off the shirt and throwing it on the ground is also an effective way to get that extra seconds to make good an escape. As a last resort if there is absolutely no hope face the Elephant and shout as much as you can that will also throw the elephant off guard for a few seconds and those few seconds can save a life. One more important observation that Dr Sukumar had pointed out is, in the availability of elephant dung (fresh dungs) nearby rub it on the body (as long as the elephant does not get to see this) and stay put behind a tree or a boulder or bushes, this will to quite an extent compress the smell of humans. I had survived an elephant attack in Manas when I was hardly 2 yrs old and lived to tell the tale had it not been for my sister and my bro I would not have been alive. Wandering in elephant country it's always helpul to plan an escape route every now and then while walking in dense forest. Amazing photos.

    Thanks,
    Sidd
    flickr.com/photos/wildsunny
    "There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in
    which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before."

  16. #16
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    Default

    ERC Davidar has thrown a copy of Readers' Digest and a charging elephant. I think throwing your hat is a good idea.

    M Krishnan has used the dung-method.

    Regarding Roopak's fourth point, remember that elephants can be frighteningly quiet.

    Apana

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