When part of your job description entails delivering diesel to private nature reserves in the heart of South Africa's game-rich lowveld, you're likely to come across the occasional elephant. For delivery driver Norman Nukeri encounters with wildlife are usually a perk of the job, but on a recent trip to Klaserie Private Game Reserve a particularly belligerent elephant provided a stark reminder of the unpredictability of wild animals when it charged Nukeri's vehicle, crumbling the hood as though it were a scrap of wastepaper.

Footage captured on a dashcam shows the vehicle rattling down a gravel road around midday on Tuesday, June 1. When a herd of elephants became visible loping across the road in the distance, Nukeri pumped the brakes to give the grey giants some space, but one hefty herd-member unexpectedly burst from the bushes beside the road and put on a pretty convincing "back-the-truck-up" display. The driver, who works for Bosbok Gas and Smeermiddels, revved the engine and bashed on the door panel in an effort to deter the disgruntled elephant.

At first, it looked as though Nukeri's tactics had worked as the pachyderm turned and galumphed into the surround brush, but its retreat was temporary and it quickly circled back. This time it meant business. The three-and-a-half-tonne creature slammed tusks-first into the vehicle almost instantly crumpling the hood and sending the now-mangled mechanical mess hurtling backwards. At this point, it appears as though Nukeri attempted to reverse out of danger, but with a heavy trailer in tow this proved tricky and there was not much he could do but ride it out.

Thankfully the elephant moved off after a short while – perhaps satisfied with the estimated R50,000 ($3,700) damage it had just casually inflicted on the vehicle. 

The vehicle's hood took the brunt of the attack. Image shared on Facebook by Geert de Jong

“Nature is one of the perks of having to work in nature reserves, just not this close up,” Nukeri quipped when describing the incident to The Lowvelder. Thankfully the driver was unhurt, but understandably shell-shocked following the hair-raising incident. 

Elephants typically provide fair warning before engaging in an all-out charge. Head-shaking, trumpeting and dust-throwing are all indications of an unhappy ellie – warning signs that it's best to back off. In this instance, the elephant – likely a protective matriarch – was quick to charge and the onslaught appeared unprovoked. It's possible she was defending young calves in the herd and may also have been spooked by the trailer-laden truck suddenly appearing around the bend. 

Whatever the reason for the frightening incident, it's a stark reminder of the dangers of wild animals and the ever-present threat of their unpredictable impulses. 

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Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr