dangerous animal encounter

How to handle a dangerous animal encounter

Nov 27, 2020

iKhaya LamaDube is situated within the Dinokeng Game Reserve – a Big 5 reserve with free roaming animals. There is a real possibility of disturbing an animal during an encounter with them in their natural habitat and territory. This could result in the animal becoming frightened and aggressive resulting in a potentially dangerous encounter. What should you do if you come across an aggressive and hostile animal within the reserve and what are the warning signs to look out for? 

Big cat encounters

Should you ever come across a big cat in the reserve the most important thing to do is not run away with your back to the animal. Cats are accustomed to chasing fleeing prey and this will only motivate them to chase you.

Signs of aggression in big cats include

  • Displaying teeth
  • Swishing tails
  • Putting ears back

Remember not to get in between a mother and her cubs and always keep your windows up.

Elephant encounters

Although they are known as ‘gentle giants’, elephants will charge to protect themselves and their territory. 

Signs of an aggressive and threatened elephant:

  • Ears back. If their ears are still relaxed the elephant may be performing a mock charge 
  • Curling trunk movements
  • Throwing dust
  • Appearing ‘large’ – although elephants are large animals, they may fan their ears, display their tusks and stand tall to ward off threats
  • Foot swinging

What to do if you encounter a hostile elephant

Elephants are herbivores and will only display aggressive behaviour if they are threatened. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation during your self-drive with an elephant you can take the following measures:

  • If you have identified the elephant is making a mock charge, stay still. This way the elephant won’t perceive you as a threat.
  • Retreat slowly as you see the elephant calming down or backing away
  • As a last resort, honking the car horn may scare the elephant
  • As you drive away, attempt to drive downwind so the elephant doesn’t smell you

Avoid hostile situations with elephants

  • Do not drive too close to an elephant
  • Always keep a lookout on either side of the road to ensure you’re not in the middle of a herd or blocking a mother from her calf
  • Observe their movements from a distance and keep the elephant’s path open
  • Slow down as you approach the elephant and then turn your vehicle off at a safe distance away from the animal.

Rhinoceros encounter

Although they are the world’s third-largest animal, Rhinos can be fast when they need to be and unfortunately there is very little warning. Their eyesight is poor which makes it difficult for them to perceive a threat until the last minute, making their behaviour rather unpredictable. 

What to do if you are charged by a rhinoceros 

  • Find something to hide your vehicle behind. If you are able to quickly maneuver your car behind a shrub or tree you may be able to hide from the Rhino due to their poor eyesight
  • The Rhinoceros can reach speeds of up to 55km/h. Although it is not advisable to speed in the reserve, you might have to put foot if your life depends on it. 

Snake encounter

Whether you’re on a self-drive safari or walking around your game lodge, there is a real possibility of coming across a snake. With over 138 species of snakes in Southern Africa, and not all of them venomous, you can’t take your chances. Here’s how we recommend handling a snake encounter which could potentially save your life.

At iKhayaLama Dube, we have always lived in harmony with snakes, encouraging guests to advise when they find one so we can safely capture and move the snake. No one has ever been bitten and after learning under Xavier Glaudas for 5 years we are fully equipped with the knowledge to coexist peacefully with any snakes we encounter. Xavier Glaudas spent 5 years at iKhaya LamaDube with his research in Dinokeng Game Reserve studying snake behaviour 

Signs of aggression in snakes

  • Reared up
  • Flattened head

What to do if you encounter a snake

iKhaya LamaDube is situated in an area inhabited by Mozambique Spitting Cobras. Here’s what to do if you are ever in a close-up encounter with one of them.

  • Freeze
  • Observe whether the snake is coiled up and still or slithering. If it assumes one of these two positions the snake most likely is not yet threatened and won’t strike. You will be able to back away slowly.
  • If you receive venom to the eye rinse your eyes out immediately with water or milk and do not rub them.  Seek medical advice as soon as possible

These tips are only guidelines on how you can attempt to stay safe when encountering a hostile animal. All cases are different and animal behaviour is always extremely unpredictable. 

Our biggest tip for staying safe on safari? Respect that this is their land and you are only a visitor. 

Happy game viewing!


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