Elephants are normally quite placid and usually avoid confrontation, but may charge if approached too closely or molested and when there are small calves or ill-tempered individuals in the herd. Individuals that are sick or injured or have been wounded or hunted in the past can be aggressive and extremely dangerous. Tuskless Elephants have a bad reputation for being aggressive. Young bulls are inclined to be ‘playful’ and mischievous, and may demonstrate with mock charges.
When moving on foot, don’t get too close on the upwind side of Elephants and be careful not to find yourself accidentally amongst members of a herd. If you encounter Elephants, don’t run, but quietly move away downwind. Elephants have poor visual perception, but they have keen hearing and a highly developed sense of smell.
Mock charges, especially by old and lone bulls, are characterised by the ears spread out and a loud trumpeting display, and may end a few metres from the intruder, after which the Elephant retreats. To run away maybe fatal. If it demonstrates, stand still until it stops, then slowly move away downwind.
In case of a real charge, which is characterised by the ears flattened against the body with the trunk curled up, run for your life. However, running straight away from it, especially upwind, could aggravate the situation. A charging Elephant can reach a speed of up to 40 km/hour, so you won’t outrun it. Start running soon enough and fast enough to stay out of its field of vision and suddenly turn sharp left or right, whichever is towards the downwind side, to run out of the charging Elephant’s way, in the hope that it will rush past you. Trying to climb the highest tree will not help. Apart from being able to push down fairly big trees, an Elephant standing on its hind-legs and stretching its trunk into the branches can reach to a considerable height.