Narrow Escape

Today we (Sameera & I) had a narrow escape from two big bulls who were in peak musth. It was the Kiral Ara road where the area is totally covered by large bushes, particularly Lantana. While we searching for elephants as usual, I smelled musth and was trying to find the musth males. There were lots of foot prints by a group of elephants and lots of broken branches by the road.

AVOID this elephant if you come across him.

At a bend in the road I saw a big male was crossing and I managed to identify it quickly. He was in peak musth & it was [M038], one who was attacking safari jeeps in 2008. I have seen him several times close to the jeep, but he was only aggressive one time.

Today while I was taking down notes regarding [M038], he disappeared. Since I have seen this male with [m012] most of the time, I expected to see [M012] here too. Most of the time [M012] & [M038] come in to their musth in the same time and they fought each other. But instead of [M012], after few minutes another male who was also in peak musth appeared from the behind me and came very close (within 1m) of the jeep, observed the jeep with the wide eyes, suddenly passed the jeep, crossed the road, then moved towards where the area [M038] was seen. I tried to remember his identification number and but at a glance I thought that it might be an unidentified male.

After the new male crossed the road, we prepared to leave the area since both males were seen and photographed. But suddenly a big male appeared about 25m ahead from the jeep and walk toward to the jeep. [M038] again. We waited silently. He slowly approached to the jeep and waited 1m meter away. He has a blind left eye which he turned at the jeep for a few seconds. Then he passed the jeep and crossed the road taking the same route as the other musth male. After few steps [M038] stopped, trunk-lifted at the area where the new male went, and turned on our jeep. He walked up briskly and suddenly bent to ground and pushed the jeep. I heard the noise of the plastic shell breaking down and told Sameera to reverse the jeep while shouting at [M038]. Though Sameera started and reversed, the male continuously pushed the jeep crushing the right side of mud guard and middle of the front side, moved into the body, damaging the radiator and the cooling fan.  This resulted in a strange noise from the engine. But we were still reversing the jeep and the elephant pushed. Finally the elephant slowed and we managed to distance ourselves from him, founding enough space to turn around. Luckily we escaped.

-Ashoka

*Note from Shermin: This was probably a case of what’s known as ‘redirected aggression.’  It’s most likely [M038] was using our unfortunate jeep to show the world who’s boss, motivated by the presence of the other male.  Often in the past jeeps that have been attacked by males have found themselves precisely in this situation, where two males are fighting one another and the jeep is an unlucky bystander.  Usually they ignore you, but it is not a good position to be in.  In this case, Ashoka and Sameera were taken by surprise.  If you or anyone you know is heading to Uda Walawe, please be advised to avoid the elephant above.  Take this picture with you and compare the ears.  If you’re unsure, for the moment avoid any male exhibiting musth, which involves a strong musky smell, reddish secretions from the sides of the forehead, and urine dribbling.

We don’t know the extent of damage to our jeep, but we would greatly appreciate help with repairs.  Please consider making a contribution by clicking on the support page link or contacting us directly (we didn’t anticipate this when creating the page!).  Thanks.

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About asianelephant

Promoting understanding of Asian elephant behavior, evidence-based conservation, and the coexistence of people with wildlife and wilderness.
This entry was posted in Behavior, General, Physiology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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