MBOMBELA - An elephant bull has been put down after it attacked a couple in the Kruger National Park on Monday, trampling their blue Volkswagen car.
The attack took place at a water hole near Pretoriuskop in the south of the park, SA National Parks spokesman Ike Phaahla said on Tuesday, a correspondent reported.
"Apparently the South African couple were following the elephant bull to videotape it and suddenly the animal turned on them and pushed their car into the bush for about 400m. According to eyewitnesses the animal was extremely aggressive and our rangers were alerted of the incident by the tourists," Phaahla said.
A park physician advised the woman to go to the Medi-Clinic Hospital in Nelspruit for observation. The man was unharmed, but in shock.
Phaahla said the couple's names were being withheld until their families had been informed.
The elephant was put down because it had shown such aggressive behaviour before and posed a threat to other tourists.
"The elephant had to be put down. Since it was in its musth phase, the elephant had gotten into a fight with another dominant bull before and was very aggressive," Phaahla said.
During this phase an elephant's elevated testosterone levels cause them to become aggressive, even when unthreatened.
"Musth happens in the breeding season when young bachelor bulls try to enter a breeding herd to mate with a female," said nature conservationist Bryan Jones, of the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre.
"They are often driven away by the dominant male of that herd and may divert their frustration onto something else, sometimes humans."
Phaahla advised tourists to park at a safe distance from animals.
"We need to respect their space. They are wild animals and behave naturally in the wild. Their behaviour can be very unpredictable and if they feel under threat they will attack to defend themselves."
Apart from this incident Phaahla said the festive season had so far been uneventful in the park.
Some tourists had been caught getting out of their cars and several speeding fines had been issued.
* This article is updated with exclusive pictures of the damage that the elephant did to the Volkwagen.