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A female elephant in Minneriya, Sri Lanka, kicks our car

Hi all,

We apologise for the silence. It has been a very busy time for us. There has been so much to follow up on with the improvements we are planning on our website and I have been working on a couple of papers on elephant cognitive behavior among other tasks.

Before moving on to another topic I had wanted to come back to a comment that I made in one of our recent postings about there being subtle and not so subtle differences in Asian and African elephant behavior. I want to mention one of the "not so subtle" differences in this posting. Both species display extraordinary teamwork, especially when defending their families, but the specific tactics may be different. I have been charged by African elephants many times and I have even had my car tusked by an African elephant or two. I have had elephants explore my car with their feet (once even stepping on the front bumper so that the car was shaking) but I have never had an African elephant kick the car with its front feet!

When Petter and I were taken around Sri Lanka by Lalith Seneviratne we had the good fortune to visit Minneriya N.P., which was a highlight from many perspectives. While we were there we met a very kali (fierce in Kiswahili) adult female who just wanted to get rid of everyone.
Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka. (ElephantVoices)
To be honest, the other elephants she was with didn't pay her too much attention, but the tourists did. She had cars fleeing in all directions! We weren't so easily frightened by her, though. So she threatened us repeatedly, rumbling, flapping her ears vigourously, and thumping the ground with her trunk. And finally she proceeded to kick Lalith's car a couple of times - breaking the side light. Only then did the other adult female in her group come to join her. I had the feeling at the time that she was unusually disturbed and wondered what experiences with people had led her to behave in this way.

In the MP3 file you can hear her kicking the car and Lalith trying to get her to back off against a background of excited squeaking, rumbling and screaming sounds and her continual ear flapping. Ester of Sweetwaters, whom Paula will remember, had tusks......