Dangerous animals up close
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Elephant can reach a height of 4m (13ft) and can accelerate to 38km/h (25mph) in seconds, a speed which can be maintained for great distances. Elephants normally avoid confrontations with humans but may attack, especially when:
Old bulls make mock charges, and charge vehicles with spread ears and loud trumpeting. A mock charge normally ends only meters from the object of irritation. When such an animal is further provoked, a real charge and attack may result.
A real charge is often led by the matriarch with ears flat against the body and the trunks called up to the back.
Avoid herds of elephant in the veld and never disturb these peace-loving animals. A charging herd of elephant makes for an extremely dangerous situation and they are almost impossible to stop - even with rifle fire.
Be alert to the sound of breaking branches, trumpeting, the sound a large bodies rubbing against branches or trees, a sound slightly like the far-off rumble of thunder, fresh elephant tracks and the rank smell of elephant.
When elephants are at a safe distance and they are blocking the road or refuse to leave the camp area, a rifle shot or a continuous banging against a vehicle's door or an axe against a tree trunk will cause the animals to leave the area.
In an emergency situation when an elephant is charging, do not run upwind but turn sharply left or right. Because of its poor eyesight, the elephant may continue the charge and run past you.
The best advice is to avoid elephants altogether. Dont fire a shot at an elephant unless you are hunting - it creates great risk not only for you, but for others as well.
When a large herd of buffalo for disturbed they normally run away a short distance but return with nose in the air to inspect the impostor. Generally they then run away amid thundering noise followed by swarms of Buffalo flies.
Lone bulls that have been hunted or wounded and animals that are unnecessarily disturbed can be very dangerous.
A buffalo may charge without provocation and can seldom be stopped with a single rifle shot, even by an experienced hunter.
Avoid buffalo as far as possible. On warm days buffalo hide in reeds or thickets close to river beds where old bulls spend most of their time in shallow water.
The warning cry of the oxpecker and the breaking of branches may be the first and only signs of a charging buffalo. It is also a fact that a wounded Buffalo will turn back on his own tracks and wait for the hunter.
Of the two kinds of southern African rhino the black rhino is the most dangerous. A black rhino that suddenly becomes aware of humans in its area may become confused and attack any moving thing.
Look out for tracks and middens (a large heap of dung ) marking boundaries.
With perfect timing and a good sidestep, (or rather a sideways dive) a rhino charge may be avoided. A bunch of thorns in your backside may be preferable to an irate rhino's horn in that specific location.
The white rhino is less aggressive but should also be considered dangerous.
The story that rhino are self-appointed fire wardens and kills fires at night may not be entirely untrue but seems to be an extremely rare occurrence.
Lions normally run away from humans. However when they are suddenly surprised or when getting too close being followed or harassed, or when mating or eating lions are approached on foot, a dangerous situation may result.
Old, thin, or sick animals are often more aggressive and Lions pose a greater threat at night. Lions in the veld must be avoided by taking note of fresh tracks, vultures, sounds of growling and the sounds of hyenas in the area.
Thickets close to watering areas must be especially watched. Study the behaviour of animals like zebra and wildebeest at a watering-holes. If they are hesitant to go and drink and stare at a specific thicket there may be a predator in hiding. Giraffe are especially good indicators of predators when they stare at thickets for extended periods. At night the startled warning cry of a plover or a dikkop may indicate an approaching lion.
When a lion charges, trying to run away his signing your own death warrant - then it knows that you know you are food. Standing still and trying to stare it down is better but it requires lot of courage - and sometimes a change of shorts - and may not work. Wounding a charging lion is especially dangerous.
When you meet the king of the bush tried to remain as calm as possible. The golden rule is not to attack or flee first. Let circumstances - with your sights on the lion and a prayer - guide your actions. Often such a problem situation will resolve itself when the lion, after a mock charge or two, decides to disappear in the bush.
With the exception of the legendary man-eating leopards, there are very few recorded a cases of leopards attacking humans. In exceptional cases old and sick Leopards may find humans easy prey, while harassed, wounded or trapped animals maybe he extremely dangerous.
Leopards normally avoid humans and only their tracks - often very close to the camp fire - indicate that they are present.
Of the larger predators the cheetah is the least dangerous.
The brown hyena, also known as a "wolf", is very shy and will normally not harm anyone. The spotted hyena also avoids direct human contact.
Hungry hyenas will sniff around the camp at night and a few cases are for recorded where people who slept outside were bitten or maimed by hyenas. Hyenas may sometimes damage the tires of vehicles or damage vehicles or equipment.
A suitable barrier like branches of thorn trees are usually sufficient to keep hyenas at bay.
Hippos cause the largest number of human fatalities in Africa. In most of the cases the animals were disturbed or harassed.
Although the animal may appear very docile when floating in a waterhole, it is nevertheless a dangerous animal and may attack unexpectedly. They often hide in thickets next to water holes and fatalities occur when a human is between a hippo and the water.
Hippo can move very fast in water and on dry ground and can easily overtake a running man.
Serious accidents can occur when traveling at night next to rivers and surprised hippo try to escape to the water and collide with vehicles.
Hippos should be considered as potentially dangerous and a safe distance should be maintained.
Anyone walking through water or swimming in a waterhole where crocodiles are present is exposing himself to the risk of being caught by a crocodile.
Crocodiles or are extremely fast and powerful and seem to not differentiate between prey species. Even a powerful Buffalo is not strong enough to avoid being pulled into the water.
Crocodiles have valves that close the throat and nostrils when submerged. When caught by a crocodile use knife or sharp object to a gouge the eyes or try to cut and perforate the valves that close the nostrils or the throat. The best defense is to stay away from deep water
If you encounter a snake, back away slowly while keeping your eye on the snake.
However, if you are so close that you are within striking distance and the snake is already engaged to strike, remain motionless until the snake withdraws. Snakes only strike at movement. This will take some guts - and you may have to change your shorts afterwards.
Puff adders hiss a warning and mambas and cobras raise the front of their bodies and spread their hoods as a warning. Do not pick up a snake that appears dead - Rinkhals snakes are very venomous and play dead - and are just waiting for you to do something as stupid as that.
Information courtesy www.ultimatefieldguide.com
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