Apparently, Volkswagen vehicles are perfect for getting to those hard-to-reach places – at least for this elephant they are. A pair of tourists on safari in South Africa recently found themselves in a rather precarious situation when a bull elephant decided to use their vehicle's roof and bonnet to relieve an itch.

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These amazing photos were snapped by Armand Grobler, a field guide and lodge manager in South Africa's Pilanesburg National Park.

"I was doing ethology (the study of animal behaviour) at the time, so I had a basic understanding of what was going on," Grobler explains. "The elephant was presumably on musth, which is a time [when] an elephant male has an excess amount of testosterone, turning even the calmest Dumbo into a raging bull."

An elephant in musth is not an elephant you want to mess with – it's always best to keep your distance. The 'gentle giant' moniker doesn't always apply and many instances of elephant attacks often result from tourists not giving these animals enough space.

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Luckily in this case, despite the bull being in a bit of a frisky mood, Grobler points out that it showed no signs of aggression and seemed to just be using the car as a convenient scratching post. Elephants will often use tree trunks, overhanging branches or rocks to ease an itch or to help remove parasites (though there hasn't been much research into the use of cars for this purpose!).

Grobler adds: "We were unsure of what to do in the situation when the elephant made contact with the car, and when the car was being crushed, we feared for the lives of the driver and passenger but our efforts were very limited as to what we could do."

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"The two passengers in the car, male and female, both in their late 20's or early 30's, were not harmed, only badly shaken up. They were both in shock but happy to be alive."

The vehicle was a little less lucky. According to Grobler, the windows were smashed and the roof was very badly dented. All four tyres were destroyed and the chassis broken.

As for the elephant, a good scratch was all he needed before strolling off, leaving in his wake a crumbled VW and a couple of terrified tourists with a story worthy of sharing with the grandkids.

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Images: Greatstock/Armand Grobler

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