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Ivory VS Metal

It was a promising day for jeep safaris in general; the weather was pleasant, the endemic birds were out and about, and there was a quiet determination in the air to spot the big cat in Yala – the world’s prime leopard territory. Overall we wished for luck, though in hindsight we should have specified what type of luck! For our luck, we were accosted by an enormous Sri Lankan Tusker in ‘musth’ deep in the Katagamuwa Sanctuary!

For the uninitiated, getting attacked by tuskers on a jeep safari can literally take a wrong turn, but coupled with the fact that the elephant is in heat a.k.a musth, means a lot more trouble. And a lot more trouble it was! Out of nowhere this tusker charged straight for the jeep, but with the angle of the attack it was much more dangerous to abandon ship. So with swift instructions to brace for the attack, we felt the impact. Not going to mince words, it was quite a violent blow to the side of the jeep. His elongated tusks pierced right through the metal of the jeep and into the fuel tank!

Luckily – finally the right kind of luck – with our yelling the tusker might have recalled being a gentle giant pre-musth, and possibly decided he might have been rude in front of guests, thus left as quickly and surprisingly as he arrived! After all, out of most Asian Elephants, the elephants in Sri Lanka have built up a reputation for being gentle giants. Unfortunately it’s really luck you need when catching them at a good time!

All in all, experiences like these are what makes a good story. We just called in a tow, got in another jeep, and pushed on. And as luck would have it we spotted a leopard at Yala National Park later that day, with, might I add, notably no interest in attacking us!

By Dharmasiri Weerawardhna, Big Game Safari Jeep Driver

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