Ever heard the story about the tortoise and the hair-raising moment it nearly got flattened by a family of elephants? Captured on WildEarth’s live webcam back in 2018 and shared recently by Latest Sightings, this footage of a tortoise trapped in the middle of an elephant herd is crammed full of can’t-bare-to-watch moments. The live broadcast, filmed at a waterhole in South Africa's Pilanesberg Game Reserve, had viewers from across the globe on the edge of their seats.

The video starts with a close-up of a tortoise beside a waterhole. The shelled creature awkwardly starts turning away from the water’s edge and begins a slow journey towards some nearby bushes. A shuffling noise can be heard off-camera and the tortoise quickly retreats into its shell. A herd of thirsty elephants rush into view, stepping over and around the tortoise, barely missing its protective shell. While some elephants brush their feet against the tortoise, others appear to deliberately step over it. As the herd moves off, the tortoise grabs an opportunity to flee – as quickly as a tortoise can – to safety.

It was evident to many viewers that the elephants seemed aware of the tortoise and appeared to deliberately avoid it. One viewer commented on the clip, “I think the big guys knew the little fella was there”, which may be the case. Elephants have a lot of weight to carry and the health of their feet is vitally important. These gentle giants will step carefully to avoid any obstacles that may harm their weight-bearing feet. Elephants in captivity often suffer from foot-related ailments which are believed to be the result of unnatural conditions. In the wild, foot care is a big deal for these massive mammals.

Studies also show that elephants 'listen' through their feet by detecting underground vibrations. This unique ability – known as seismic communication – helps herds navigate towards water or away from potential threats.

Elephants are known for their sensitivity and intelligence which makes it more likely that this herd purposefully avoided the shell-shocked reptile, or maybe the tortoise just got lucky. Either way, slow and steady was the order of the day.

Top header image: Brittany H., Flickr