Are Elephants Dangerous to Humans? (Explained!)
Elephants are known to be one of the most emphatic and kind species in the whole animal kingdom. There are dozens of videos online displaying their sensitivity and caring behavior both towards people and other elephants.
However, considering their size and strength, one may wonder – are elephants dangerous?
Although they are not an active threat, elephants can be dangerous to humans. They are the strongest and largest land mammals on earth, and sometimes they are deadly too. However, elephants rarely attack humans or other animals if not previously provoked. The majority of attacks on people are related to self-defense or the protection of their calves.
Are Elephants Aggressive?
Elephants are naturally non-aggressive animals. Though these giants are not usually aggressive towards humans, they can/will charge when they feel threatened. For instance, female elephants can be extremely aggressive when their young ones are nearby as a means of protection. Male elephants are sometimes aggressive when displaying their dominance. Both male and female elephants can be aggressive when they are injured, sick, or harassed.
When they feel challenged or threatened, elephants react in different ways; they tend to make noise and fuss to show their dominance; to show their strength, male elephants often mock-charge; they spread their ears out and start flapping, looking straight at the threat; and they also raise their head and trunk to let the enemy know that they are dangerous.
Some other defensive actions of elephants can include: upset trunk movements, swinging their foot, avoidance, breaking off branches, etc.
To demonstrate their strength and dominance, elephants may run at humans, which sometimes can turn out to be a real charge. Mock charges, in most cases, are stopped before they reach their threat/target; but, if an elephant continues its charge, it can easily kill a human.
It is best to avoid causing an elephant any pain or agony, as it could cause them to charge. As for female elephants, it is important to respect their space and not make them or their calves threatened.
Read Also: Are Orangutans Dangerous?
Do Elephants Attack Humans?
Yes, elephants do attack humans. Regardless of whether you are dealing with a domesticated or wild elephant, the animal can get violent and can cause serious injuries. One of the main reasons behind elephant attacks on humans is the encroachment of their habitat by human civilization. Also, elephant attacks occur in situations when the animal is feeling unsafe.
And how do elephants attack? There are a lot of different ways, some of which you might be aware of and some completely unexpected:
- An elephant can beat you up with its highly strong muscle – the trunk. Weighing around 400 pounds on its own, a single hit can throw you on the ground unconscious.
- With the largest land mammals come large feet. Weighing as much as six tons, they can easily crush you with their feet, applying their full weight, along with nudges and kicks. This is a death sentence!
- In addition to their trunk and feet equally terrifying and fatal weapon elephants possess is their tusks. Made of ivory, an elephant’s tusks are highly capable of tearing you up if they feel that you are invading their space. They can easily put a tusk through your body, gore it, and rip the area out anyway they want.
- After they are done bashing their human threat with their trunk, elephants can use the same to throw them to a great distance.
Related Article: Are Badgers Dangerous?
How to Survive an Elephant Attack?
Before learning how to survive an elephant attack, you should be able to recognize between the two types of elephant charges – bluff/mock and attack.
- Bluff/Mock charges: These are charges made by elephants to stop a threat from approaching any further. What this means is that the elephant does a mock charge to let the person know that it is dangerous and serious. However, it doesn’t have the intention to attack but rather to scare off the opposite side.
- Attack charges: This is an actual charge by an elephant, where it runs after the enemy, trampling and even tearing it apart with its tusks. During this charge, an elephant’s trunk tends to be curled up under them and their ears pinned back.
To survive an elephant attack here is what you should do:
- If you recognize that the elephant is making a mock charge, first, stay calm and focus on showing that you are not a threat. You can do this by using a soft voice, not spreading your arms wide or waving your hands.
- If it is indeed a mock charge, you don’t necessarily have to run, but remember to give the elephant its space.
- If the animal keeps approaching, you can try to startle it by using a loud voice to yell, making it understand that you are not afraid or intimidated.
But, if you can see that it is an attack charge and you are actually in trouble:
- Just get out of there! Run as fast as you can until you find a hiding spot or reach a high spot.
- As you run, keep changing directions, and run in a zig-zag pattern. With their massive size, elephants cannot change directions as effectively and swiftly as you, and this will buy you some time.
Do Elephants Eat Humans?
No, elephants don’t eat humans, as they are herbivorous by nature. However, there has been a report of a female Indian elephant having eaten a human after her calf was threatened by the local villagers. This rare case of the human-eating elephant is extremely uncommon, and it can be attributed to a protective maternal instinct.
Animals that feed and hunt other organisms are carnivores and predators. Elephants are not predators. Instead, their diet consists of vegetables and vegetation.
These giants are true vegetarians, and their favorite food includes roots, flowers, twigs, barks, leaves, shrubs, grasses, etc. Their diet may vary depending on the species and region they live in, however, their diet is strictly based on plants regardless of their environment.
Elephants have humungous requirements when it comes to food and water – requiring up to 300 pounds of vegetable matter and 200 liters of water a day. As a result, they are attracted to human agriculture as a great food source, which is when they come in contact with humans, and some of these accidental encounters end up being fatal as well.
However, elephants do not see humans as a food source, and these harmful encounters are related to self-defense and other mentioned reasons.
What Makes Elephants So Dangerous?
Now, when we’ve learned why and when elephants may pose a threat to people. Let us see what makes these giants so dangerous.
Elephants Are Huge
One of the main and most obvious reasons that make elephants so dangerous is that they are huge. These animals can grow as tall as 13 feet and weigh over 15,000 pounds. With this heaviness, they can easily crush, throw, or beat up a human, if/when they feel threatened.
Elephants Are Intelligent
Elephants are extremely intelligent animals. In fact, it has been found that they can realize how dangerous a threat can be from just how they speak. They can read your body language and have clear behavioral responses in different situations.
Elephants Are Unpredictable
As intelligent, smart, charming, and graceful they can be, elephants are also unpredictable. Sometimes, elephants can get aggressive and charge for no reason at all, which makes them highly dangerous to humans.
In Summary – Are Elephants Dangerous?
Despite having docile and non-aggressive personalities, elephants can/may be dangerous to humans in certain situations. The most usual cases of elephant attacks on humans are linked with animal survival instincts.
For example, when they are cornered or endangered in any way, elephants will become aggressive and dangerous. The best thing you should do to avoid an elephant attack is to treat these giants as every other wild creature, regardless of their peaceful nature.
Thank you for reading. I hope you have learned something new today, or at least got the answer if someone asks you: “are elephants dangerous”?
For the very end, I would like to recommend you a read from the same category – Are Penguins Dangerous?