Every Now And Then In South Africa
THE KRUGER NATIONAL PARK in South Africa is a massive wild animal preserve isolated from civilization, for the most part. It is criss-crossed with extensive single-lane dirt roadways that are used by millions of foreign tourists to wander along and view the wildlife.
But you have to be careful because if you need medical help, it comes later via helicopter from a long ways away. A Polish couple learned this the hard way Monday morning when they drove their car too close to an elephant who asserted his territorial rights.
Two tourists visiting the national park were injured after an elephant charged and overturned their car.
Kruger National Park spokesman William Mabasa said: ‘We stay here every day. We meet elephants on the road. We basically give them space but tourists sometimes don't.’
It is unclear why the elephant became aggressive, Mr Mabasa added. He is appealing to the public to be alert in Kruger park and try not to get too close if they see an elephant approaching on the road.
The male tourist was taken to Clinix Phalaborwa Private Hospital, near the park, and was said by an official at the hospital to be in critical condition with multiple rib fractures. His female companion was also being treated there for a pelvis fracture, but her injuries were not said to be serious.
The hospital employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, added that officials planned to transfer the pair to a hospital in Pretoria.
A doctor and paramedics backed by a helicopter rushed to the scene on the H1-7 tar road between Shingwedzi and Punda Maria in the northern half of the park at about 6.30am on Monday, SANParks said.
"We were told by the woman that when they saw the elephant charging, they stopped their car and switched off the engine. Apparently they had been told that when one switches off the engine – an animal stops charging. But the elephant didn’t, it went on and trampled the car," the park’s head of communications and marketing, William Mabasa, said.
Fortunately for the couple, as the elephant was trampling the car, they were thrown out through the windows. Had they not been out of the car, the incident could most likely have been fatal, Mabasa added.
The last time an elephant flipped a car in the park was this past November.
* * * * * * *