There are some creatures in the animal kingdom that you just don’t mess with, no matter how gentle they may seem. Take the elephant, for example; a mammal that despite its size, appears relatively harmless. But as one woman found out to her detriment, they’re certainly not to be trifled with. This isn’t a lesson she’s going to forget any time soon…
There’s no denying that nature is awesome in all senses of the word. Indeed, there are hundreds of wonderful creatures that populate the wilderness of this world. And while there are plenty of opportunities to observe them at a safe distance, people sometimes like to get close – often too close.
It’s when people get too near to dangerous animals that problems can occur – and of course, these situations often end badly. Many people are killed or injured by animal attacks each year. Indeed, animal bites are now classified as a “major public health problem,” according to the World Health Organization.
Thankfully, elephants are not particularly noted for biting people. There are three main species of this majestic animal – two African varieties, the bush and forest elephant, and the Asian elephant. As their species names would suggest, they’re found mainly throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
And while everyone knows elephants are one of the largest animals around, you may not know just how big they can get. Indeed, the largest variety, male African elephants, can grow as high as 13 feet tall and weigh up to 15,000 pounds. But it’s no wonder that, despite their stature, elephants are known as relatively peaceful animals – after all, they are herbivores.
Still, while their reputation may suggest otherwise, elephants aren’t actually the most docile creatures around. But because the common perception perpetuates, even people who are around them often don’t realize just how dangerous they can be – like one woman who got a little too close for comfort.
The scene in question occurred in Thailand in early 2017. One elephant was among a small group of the animals being bathed when a woman walked up to join in. Having grabbed a cloth, the woman headed straight for the elephant’s trunk and began wiping it down.
And initially, the elephant allowed her to do so. Indeed, it didn’t seem to mind this strange woman helping to give it a bath. Not at first, anyway – but things soon went awry. It’s possible that the woman had no prior rapport with the animal, and that no level of trust had built up between the pair.
Seemingly out of nowhere, then, the elephant lifted its head and batted the woman away with its trunk, sending her flying through the air. Clearly, it had decided that it didn’t much like being washed by this unknown stranger after all.
Meanwhile, the person filming the woman’s attempts to bathe the elephant appeared to be caught equally off guard. Indeed, as the hapless woman soared through the air, the cameraperson stumbled, unable to follow the lady’s precise movements. Nevertheless, it’s pretty clear just how far she was thrown.
While not as large as some of its kind, this was still an elephant, after all – and that makes it a pretty powerful creature. In fact, elephants are widely regarded as the strongest of all animals (at least on land), thanks to their ability to carry as much as 19,000 pounds. And their trunks contain more than 100,000 muscles – plenty enough to hurl a human being about.
After being launched off her feet, then, the woman came down hard in some shallow water. Yet while it definitely looked painful, she quickly clambered to her feet and walked off. Indeed, it appears that what suffered the most in the entire ordeal was the woman’s pride.
If she incurred no real physical injuries, though, the woman most certainly got off lightly. After all, a 2005 documentary stated that elephants were killing around 500 people per year. And researchers explained that the more the animals’ habitat was shrinking, the more aggressive they became towards humans.
With all that in mind, then, you may feel slightly apprehensive about just wandering up to an elephant to wash it. And as well you should: for as the Save Elephant Foundation points out, getting along with an elephant isn’t something you can expect to happen straight away. Indeed, you have to build a rapport with it first.
“Building trust with elephants can be a long difficult process, especially when they have spent their lives being controlled by humans,” the foundation’s website states. “With continuous love and care, we hope to show our elephants that they are now safe and no longer need to fear pain or punishment.”
One of the ways in which the foundation attempts to build rapport with these large mammals is by showing them that they’re “safe and free to act naturally,” in order to increase their confidence. Obviously, however, this isn’t something that can be done in an instant, as the woman learned.
You may not know that African elephants are listed as vulnerable and Asian elephants as endangered, following the mass depletion of their species throughout the 20th century from poachers wanting their ivory tusks. As a result, organizations like the World Wildlife Fund are working to improve human-elephant relations, and combat the work of poachers.
Meanwhile, the destruction of elephants’ habitats also poses a threat to their survival. As such huge creatures, they need a large amount of resources in order to thrive – whether that’s land to roam free on or food supplies to keep them in good health.
The WWF puts it succinctly: “Roaming in herds and consuming hundreds of pounds of plant matter in a single day, both species of elephant require extensive amounts of food, water and space.” Indeed, much of the conflict that arises between humans and elephants isn’t just down to poachers, but “competition over resources.”
It seems, then, that the woman in question was exceedingly lucky to escape her elephant encounter relatively unscathed. It’s likely that she’ll be careful around large animals in the future, no matter how docile they may first appear. After all, you never know what something far bigger and stronger than you is capable of…