International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, has today released extraordinary video footage capturing the moment world-renowned conservationist, Ian Redmond OBE, was almost fatally charged by an elephant.
Redmond, who is a Wildlife Consultant with Born Free, was observing elephants with members of the Foundation-sponsored Mount Elgon Elephant Monitoring (MEEM) team and local Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers in Mount Elgon National Park and forest reserves, in Western Kenya, when the near miss occurred. Mount Elgon is home to a unique population of elephants. Made famous by Sir David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals TV series, they feel their way hundreds of metres into enormous caves to find and mine minerals with their tusks deep underground.
While Redmond was watching a herd cross a forest glade approximately 150 metres away, one of the elephants turned and charged. Redmond, who unbelievably caught fragments of the near-fatal incident on camera, escaped with a partially dislocated shoulder and soft tissue damage to his neck and chest.
Recalling the moment of impact, Redmond said: “As the elephant made contact, I have a vivid recollection of the feel on my hand of his tusk and the softness of the skin of his upper lip. I was pushed into a high-speed backward roll and found myself momentarily upside down between his front legs with my feet touching his chest – and then completed the backward roll and landed on my hands and knees under his belly, facing his hind legs. I think he was trying to kick me into a position where he could either ‘kneel’ on me with his wrist or reach me with his trunk.”
Redmond added: “My next clear memory was of my left hand on his right foreleg and my right hand, still clutching the camera, trying to steady myself. I could feel the soft, pliable skin and bristles against my palm – elephants do have hairy legs! I think I had either pushed myself or the elephant kicked me out from under his feet, and I landed on the grass to his left.”
Shots fired into the air by the KWS rangers caused the elephant to break off the engagement and retreat, saving Redmond’s life.
Redmond has been monitoring the Mount Elgon elephants for 36 years and has never seen an elephant leave the company of other elephants and run 150 metres to tackle a perceived enemy. Like many elephants across Africa, the Mount Elgon elephants are facing serious threats. Between late 2012 and 2014, at least eight elephants from this small community were killed by poachers. Charcoal burners are also active in the area, operating illegal charcoal kilns and it may be that their activities have also led to more nervous and, in this case, aggressive elephant behaviour.
Today, Born Free is launching a new appeal to provide further support for the MEEM team and the Kenya Wildlife Service not only to protect these extra special elephants but to try and eradicate illegal tree-felling and charcoal burning in their unique forest habitat.
Kitili Mbathi, Director General of KWS, said: “What an incredible encounter. It makes compelling reading and I am pleased that Ian survived to tell the story. We must eliminate the charcoal burning and hopefully the Appeal will generate some funding to help us in our efforts to protect the Mount Elgon forest, and its elephants.”