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Survive Common Animal Attacks in Africa

by Holly Godbey

Aug 31, 2015

© Saiko3p | Dreamstime


Whether you’re traveling solo or on a group nature tour, animal attacks can be a serious threat while traveling abroad. Knowing what to do and, sometimes more importantly, what not to do during an animal attack can mean the difference between life and death.


Paga Crocodile Pond, Ghana © Pinagome | Dreamstime 46029823

Paga Crocodile Pond, Ghana © Pinagome | Dreamstime 46029823


Crocodiles kill up to 2,500 people worldwide annually and if you don’t have time to run from them — they can only run 10 mph — you’ll find yourself facing a mouthful of razor sharp teeth. Crocodiles attack for two reasons — they either want to defend themselves or they think you’d make a good dinner. If the attack is in defense, the crocodile will most likely let you go after a few chomps, but if the animal has other intentions, it will try to drag you into the water. In this case, attack the head, eyes, snout and mouth as much as possible using your fists, legs or anything else. Crocodiles have a flap in the back of their mouth covering the opening to their lungs, which if you hit or grab hold of it, will force them to release you or drown. If the animal begins to roll you, roll with it. The extended energy will cause the animal to release you.


Forest Elephants of Loango National Park, Gabon © Zahorec | Dreamstime

Forest Elephants of Loango National Park, Gabon © Zahorec | Dreamstime


Elephants kill about as many people per year as crocodiles, but at least you don’t have to worry about them eating you. Elephants charge when they feel you are a threat to them or their young. At first, they may exhibit a mock charge, in order to see if you are a threat. If their ears are relaxed and their trunk is twitching or swinging, it’s most likely a mock charge, and they mean no real harm. If an elephant does attack, however, use loud noises or throw decoys, such as bags or clothing items to confuse it. If there’s anything around you, attempt to climb above the elephant’s reach. Do not trap yourself in a car unless you’re capable of driving away — otherwise, the elephant is likely to trample or flip the automobile.


Hippos on the Chobe River, Caprivi Strip, Namibia © Mogens Trolle | Dreamstime

Hippos on the Chobe River, Caprivi Strip, Namibia © Mogens Trolle | Dreamstime


Hippos are also a dangerous threat, killing more than 300 people a year. While you may think hippos are only a danger in the water, think again. Dry season can force hippos out onto land, where they’re easily provoked. If you’re quick, you may be able to outrun the animal, as hippos can be fast, but never for long distances. You can confuse it by hiding behind trees or termite mounds. Do not block the animal from reaching the water, as they are usually most docile when near or in deep water. If you encounter a hippo while boating, do not touch, tap or get near it.


Cape Buffalo, Kruger Park, South Africa © Stu Porter | Dreamstime

Cape Buffalo, Kruger Park, South Africa © Stu Porter | Dreamstime


Cape buffalo may not be the first thought when you consider deadly animals in Africa, but they still take out several hundred people a year. Cape buffalo weigh close to 2 tons and are notoriously smart killers. They’re known to seek out and kill both hunters and lion cubs — you might call it taking preventative measures. Whatever you do, don’t try to fight an angry or wounded buffalo. They’ll stalk a victim as long as it takes and even bring along their friends to help. Your best bet is to run or, better yet, drive away from the situation as quickly as possible.



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