Facts about the animal kingdom

Escaping from an Elephant Attack

Janhvi Johorey
By Janhvi Johorey, Psychologist specialized in animal therapy. Updated: August 31, 2017
Escaping from an Elephant Attack

Whether you are attacked by captive elephants or wild ones, the result can be equally deadly. According to an estimate, around 500 people are killed annually by elephants; they are considered one of the most dangerous animals in India.If you are the victim of an elephant attack, don't think that all is lost; there are steps you can take that can save your life.

Knowing what to do when an elephant charges at you can make the difference between life and death. Stay with us at AnimalWised and learn all about escaping from an elephant attack.

You may also be interested in: Differences between African and Asian Elephants

Steps to follow:


The first step is to assess if the elephant is actually going to charge or if it is a mock threat. Often, elephants pretend to attack because they want to assess if you are a threat or not. You can tell according to its body language.

If the elephant's ears are relaxed or fanned out, the elephant probably has no intention of attacking you. But if its ears are pinned back, and the trunk is curved inwardly, this means it's a real attack and you need to take preventative steps if you don't want to be trampled to death.

Another indication that the elephant is charging just to test your intentions are signs such as twitching trunks and the swinging of the leg to and fro – an activity called displacement which was discovered by a biologist George Schaller to be indicative of a mock charge.

Escaping from an Elephant Attack - Step 1

The second step, in the unfortunate event that it is a real attack, involves staying downwind of the elephant. This will make it difficult for the elephant to smell you and easy for you to evade the beast.

Elephants have a keen sense of smell, but if you hide where they can't sniff you out you can make a quick getaway.


The third way of escaping an elephant attack if you cannot hide away is to make a lot of noise. Biologist Michael Fahey has documented that this can work wonders even when elephants are making a mock charge.

If you are inside a vehicle, making a noise may stop the elephant mid-charge. Rattling bags, shaking trees, and making noise with whatever items there are on you at the moment may also be a good idea. Of course, this all depends on whether your attacker is a junior or a full-grown male elephant.

Escaping from an Elephant Attack - Step 3

A fourth step is to escape an elephant is to fight your instincts and stay where you are instead of turning around and running. Running is a precursor to chasing, and experts hold that standing your ground may be more beneficial than running away.

Check for something between you and the charging elephant and see if you can use it to act as a shield. This could be a tree, vehicle, or building. Along with a sharp sense of smell, elephants also have acute hearing. If you choose to hide away, you need to remain stationary and quiet.


If you do choose to run from a charging elephant, here are the ways to do it.

If you are in a vehicle, just back away and drive off. If the animal is close to the car, however, it can charge the vehicle and you can be tipped over.

If you are on foot, on the other hand, try to run in a way that deceives the beast. How do you do this? Run zig zag, because elephants find it tough to change directions because of their heavy size. Running in different directions and at a fast speed, you may just be able to outpace the elephant.

Remember that elephants in the grip of negative emotions can run 35-40 km/h while the fastest a human being has ever clocked is just 37 km/h.

Escaping from an Elephant Attack - Step 5

Climb onto a tree if you can see one. At worst, the charging elephant could shake the trunk; if it is a sturdy tree, you should be able to put enough space between you and the attacking animal. If the tree does not look strong enough don't climb it, because the elephant can easily rip it, smashing you to the ground.

Another unwise option to escape from an elephant attack is to jump into the water. Apart from the fact that this animal can easily follow you there, there may be deadly water animals like crocodiles which can also attack you.

Escaping from an Elephant Attack - Step 6

There are other ways of escaping an elephant attack that do not involve physical ability. When running away from a charging animal, keep a keen eye on your surroundings and take in everything you can use for cover.

If there is a ditch, hop into the it if you cannot find any other space to evade the elephant. Dropping into a large ditch and staying low ensures that elephants are not able to find a way around it. However, be warned that if the ditch is not deep or wide enough you can have a serious problem and get trampled anyway.

If the attacking elephant is close to you and you are running for dear life, throw a decoy such as a bag or a branch to distract the elephant. This can save you from a deadly elephant attack. If you are in a vehicle, don't try blowing the horn or flashing a camera, as this can infuriate the animal and create a tough crisis for you.

It is important to be resourceful and keep a cool head if you want to outsmart the animal. Size matters, but so does brain power, after all!

Escaping from an Elephant Attack - Step 7

Do you have any tips on escaping from an elephant attack? Have you ever been in this situation? Tell us in the comments section!

If you want to read similar articles to Escaping from an Elephant Attack, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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I went to mysore(karanataka,india) from ooty(tamilnadu, india) via masinagudi - madumalai route. I just went to near before my car, another car was stopped. I do not know why the guy was stopped. He changed the reverse gear, still I could not understand why is coming back and he came to me before my number plate only few inches are there. I was put my horn and stopped him, meanwhile another car before me turned the vehicle and also before my car one person had get away with full speed, now only I could seen huge tusker elephant chasing on our cars middle of the road just 15 feet from me. I do not think going back with reverse, there was a no time changing gear and look back. I was get away from my vehicle and run. I had seen four or five cars was stopped from me 200 meters distance. I run to these cars and also locked back only one time while running , the elephant was reached upto our cars and run towards forest side. One i reached with other passengers looked back the elephant was disappear. Just I was stand nearly few seconds only, I realize once these all the cars would moved, I would be lone standing on road without car. Meantime along with me run person (from before my car) was also return back come to my car and start the vehicle and escape. before my car was not started, getting delayed, i immediately put reverse gear and got the clearance, and moved with speed and escaped.
This is was my great experience from escaping. When I used to told others, people used to laugh, and could not understand the worse timings. But still I got an confusion whether I should put reverse gear and come back rather than run. After one week also still I not able to forget the elephant chasing and still i have in my mind fearing.
Administrador AnimalWised

What an exciting story! You faced down the charge of an elephant and lived to tell the tale, of course you will have a little residual fear. It is completely normal. Thank you for sharing here, but we advise you also ensure you speak to someone you trust about it. If not, it could weigh down on you.
Just a comment, thank you for sharing such helpful measures as how to escape elephant attacks.
Administrador AnimalWised
You're welcome Gokagiso!
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Escaping from an Elephant Attack