Cape Town - 'The bull elephant probably thought he was defending his herd from poachers.'
This is what the Born Free Foundation says might be the main reason behind an elephant bull's attack on world renowned conservationist Ian Redmond. Although the seasoned elephant expert survived the attack, he has expressed his shock after he was charged by the elephant while out in the field in Kenya.
After working for 36 years with elephants at the Mount Elgon National Park and forest reserve, Redmond said he had never expected to see an elephant attack a human.
But Born Free Foundation, the international wildlife charity, released footage of Redmond’s attack because of the somber reality behind the giant African legend's out-of-character behaviour - it most likely feared a poaching onslaught on the herd of females he was with.
The elephant's fear would not have been unfounded.
According to a recent report by conservation journalist Scott Ramsay, elephant poachers are currently shooting elephants at a rate of about 100 per day, or about 30 000 every year.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: The Elephants' 97% decline in less than a century
Ramsay says about 10% of the population is being wiped out ever year, and elephants' numbers have declines with 97% in less than a century. This is highly problematic for the species' future, as more elephants are being killed than being born.
Redmond, who was working as a wildlife consultant with Born Free Foundation in Western Kenya at the time, said the incident happened while he was watching a herd cross a forest glade which was about 150m away.
At that point one of the elephants in the reserve turned and started charging towards him.
This is how Redmond remembers the attack:
“As the elephant made contact, I have a vivid recollection of the feel on my hand of his tusk and the softness of the skin of his upper lip.
“I was pushed into a high-speed backward roll and found myself momentarily upside down between his front legs with my feet touching his chest – and then completed the backward roll and landed on my hands and knees under his belly, facing his hind legs.
“I think he was trying to kick me into a position where he could either ‘kneel’ on me with his wrist or reach me with his trunk.
“My next clear memory was of my left hand on his right foreleg and my right hand, still clutching the camera, trying to steady myself.
“I could feel the soft, pliable skin and bristles against my palm – elephants do have hairy legs!
“I think I had either pushed myself or the elephant kicked me out from under his feet, and I landed on the grass to his left.”
Check out the video below to hear his full story: Renowned conservationist survives African elephant attack
Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) foiled the attack by firing shots in the air.
If you'd like to aid the conservation of elephants in Africa, you can:
- Donate money to organizations like Save the Elephants and WildAid
These organisations are affecting change both in Asia (to reduce demand among consumers), and in Africa (to help protect elephants in the wild from poachers).
- Visit the national parks of Africa where elephants still live
Kruger, Chobe, Gorongosa, Mana Pools, Hwange, Addo Elephant, and Etosha. Your tourism money provides a valuable source of income and employment for local communities, many of which have to live in close – and sometimes dangerous - proximity to elephants.
Born Free will now also launch a new appeal to support the Mount Elgon Elephant Monitoring team to help eradicate illegal tree-felling and charcoal burning in their forest habitat.
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Pros and cons of wildlife apps - join Traveller24's twitter chat on 1 July
- Speak up
Talk to your friends, your family and your colleagues. Spread awareness.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Madikwe's 1000+ elephants in need of rescue escape corridor
- PICS: Elephant who 'came looking for help' at Zim lodge after poacher attack recovering
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: African elephants a little safer as US bans sale of ivory