Car flipped by randy elephant bull

2011-02-22 11:26
A bull elephant attacks a car in Pilanesburg game reserve. (Riaan van Wyk, Beeld)

A bull elephant attacks a car in Pilanesburg game reserve. (Riaan van Wyk, Beeld)

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Johannesburg - A Rustenburg man has described how his life flashed before his eyes as an aggressive bull elephant flipped his car over with him and a friend inside last Thursday.

"I never thought I would be killed by an elephant,” John Somers of Rustenburg said on Monday.

What is more, it was his 66th birthday - and he was in a Volkswagen Passat he had owned for only two weeks.

Somers and his wife Judy are regular visitors to the Pilanesberg game reserve. However, on Thursday Judy, a chef, had to take care of a friend’s guesthouse. Somers and Carina Lowers, a friend visiting from Johannesburg, decided to go for a drive in the nature reserve.

Elephant 'making advances'

“When I turned a corner there was a bakkie in the road in front of us. The driver started reversing and stopped next to us. I’m Irish and he was speaking Afrikaans, but I could make out the word 'elephant',” said Somers.

It later emerged that the elephant was Amarula, one of the largest bulls in the reserve.

“I tried to reverse, but the back of the car was half off the road in a ditch and in order to get out I would have had to drive forward.

“The elephant came walking down the road. I was afraid of making a noise and turned the engine off.”

The elephant was at his vehicle by this time. It broke the window on the driver’s side and rubbed up against the car.

“It really seemed to regard the car as a female elephant and was making advances to ‘her’.

“Carina and I were very nervous, because we could see the elephant was in musth,” Somers continued. Musth is when bull elephants experience a rise in reproductive hormone and highly aggressive behaviour.

Landed on roof


“When the bull started flipping the car over, my life literally started flashing past before my eyes.

“The car landed on its roof and we were lying inside it.

“Carina was very scared and wanted to crawl out, but I first wanted to see where the elephant was. When we saw it walking away we crawled out through the window.”

While Amarula was nonchalantly flipping his car over, there was a deathly silence, said Somers. Two other vehicles were parked nearby.

The elephant bull passed close to the car on the right-hand side of the road and disappeared into the bushes.

“There was a guide from Pretoria, a guy called Pieter, with two Italian tourists. They helped us a lot.”

At the Pilanesberg centre a doctor and a nurse, also visitors, treated their injuries - mostly lacerations from the broken windows, bruises, and scratches from the thorn bushes next to the road.

“The rangers were also very helpful.”

Johnson Maoka, manager of the nature reserve, says a bull elephant in musth can act unpredictably.

He recommended not trying to pass an elephant on the road, but rather doing a U-turn and going another way.

Read more on:    mahikeng  |  animals
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