The African elephant is known to be a naturally docile animal. It rarely attacks humans unless when provoked. But recently, new evidence suggests differently. Wild elephants are attacking people – even tourists just trying to catch a glimpse or snap a picture of these beautiful creatures. It is estimated that elephants kill an average of 500 humans every year.

In some parts of Kenya, elephants have attacked humans and destroyed villages. People are afraid to come out of their homes or crossroads where elephants are grazing nearby since the elephants will block the path. In the past, elephant attacks on humans have been relatively rare and the influx of recent attacks seems unpredictable.

Some researchers believe the recent spate of attacks is related to these creatures’ high level of intelligence and memory. According to them, it seems that perhaps elephants have simply had enough of man and are fighting back.

Elephants, being very social and family-oriented animals, have the capacity to learn a wide variety of behaviours and can show compassion and even grief. With this highly evolved ability to express their emotions, it is very likely they also have the capacity to seek revenge.

Elephants have been captured, shot at, taken from their mothers and other family members, abused and killed for their tusks. They have endured much suffering at the hands of humankind.

This human-elephant conflict has been aggravated by the ongoing movement and development of humans into their natural habitat, leaving them with little land to live on and less food to eat. This pressure for survival has transformed them from the gentle giants they have been, to aggressive killers.

What do you do then when faced with one of this 11-tonne beast? How do you increase your chances of survival? Here are 6 tips you can fall back on faced with this dilemma. Please note, we offer no guarantees this will always work!

  1. First, do not do anything without the game warden’s permission.
  2. If you are downwind of the elephants, you are fine. If you are upwind, you are absolutely in their space and walking east. Try as much as possible to stay on the downwind side.
  3. Make yourself small and scurry away. Let the African elephant know you are getting out of his or her space.
  4. If you can, just run. You could also try to climb a tree (if there is any nearby – this may give you some time. Remember elephants are known to uproot trees from the ground).
  5. Try to just sit passively, preferably in a foetal position to assure the elephant you are not a threat.
  6. Never look at an attacking African elephant straight in the eye. Avoid eye contact. Doing so would enrage them.

Have you ever had an encounter with an African elephant? What was your experience like? We would love to hear your story. Please share by leaving a comment below.