Lucky Tourist Catches an Ambush in Africa

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Africa is a magical and enigmatic continent. You never know what incredible experience you might have or bizarre situation you could find yourself in when visiting Sudan, Mozambique or Namibia.

A routine visit to a water hole in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park resulted in a tourist capturing some amazing photos of an elephant’s struggle against a crocodile.

A pair of African elephants (a mother and her calf) walked up to the water hole to drink when a hungry Nile crocodile leapt up out of the water and caught the mother elephant’s trunk in its jaws. The two animals found themselves in a life-or-death struggle while a  fast-thinking tourist photographed the whole incident.

Martin Nyfeler of Kloten, Switzerland captured the images of the encounter which only lasted about 15 seconds. He was visiting the Zambian national park in late September last year.

“We saw a mother elephant and baby at the water hole and said [to their guide], you know, what a cute picture, let’s stop here,” he said. That’s when the crocodile suddenly jumped out of the water in a shocking ambush. The event lasted less than a minute but Nyfeler was lucky enough to get his camera ready instantly.

Elephants are an unusual prey for Nile crocodiles because of the former’s mammoth size. The 20-foot-long (6 metres) croc will attack large animals on occasion, including dozens of people annually, but it is very rare to capture such encounters on film.

Jason Bell, the assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Philadelphia Zoo says that even when crocodiles get bigger their diet consists mostly of fish or smaller land animals. “But they are also an opportunistic predator that will wait for something to come to the water’s edge and drink,” he said. Bell says that crocs have been known to take down Cape buffalo or young hippopotamuses – huge animals to pull into the water.

When the croc attacked the mother elephant she and her calf were able to move away from the water’s edge while the reptile hung onto the trunk. Nylefer says that the guides had never seen such an encounter before. Bringing down an elephant is not easy, even for a fully grown Nile crocodile; the ambush may have been a mistake or an act of desperation.

Luckily for the mother elephant she managed to escape the croc’s formidable grasp. She managed to turn while the croc still hung on and then the calf stumble over the reptile. Perhaps in surprise the croc released the trunk and she was able to run away with her baby. She crocodile retreated back into the water.

Nylefer was fortunate enough to catch the entire incident on his camera. You can see the images on National Geographic’s website.

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