A cheeky elephant snuck into a game motel to drink from a swimming pool – and ended up bumping into a ranger filming the amazing encounter.
The majestic wild animal came so close that its tusks touched the man’s shoulder and provided an extremely close-up of its wrinkled gray skin.
Wildlife manager Eugene Troskie, 34, was just settling down on some decking at a lodge he runs in South Africa when a herd of elephants arrived.
About 20 years old, the juvenile male elephant rammed from the pool with his trunk when Mr. Troskie reached for his phone to capture the moment.
To his surprise, the elephant began walking straight towards him, trying to eat the juicy new shoots from the tree on which the ranger was leaning – without seeming to notice the man was there.
Mr. Troskie, who runs the Lion Place Lodge in the Grietjie Private Game Reserve inside Kruger National Park, kept his composure and stood still not to panic the elephant.
He said: ‘I thought he must have seen me as he got closer and closer, but he obviously didn’t, and as his trunk went up to forage from the tree, his right tusk side fell on my shoulder.
I moved my phone to try and get a better picture, but when I moved it, the elephant realized I was not a part of fixtures and fittings, but a human and was shocked and ran away.
‘It is the most incredible of encounters when a wild elephant, unaware of your presence, lies on top of you, but I know I have never been in danger from the animal.
‘My ten years as a game ranger teaches you when they’re agitated or angry, but this guy is completely relaxed, and I’m happy to let him come forward and say hello.’
It’s not something I can allow a guest to do because you never know how the guest will react – but this was just me and him getting to know each other a little better and chilling out.’
The herd of 25 elephants frequented the waterhole at the edge of the camp, but occasionally they creep in and drink water straight out of the tank to campers’ delight.
Lion Place Lodge is located near Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province and is home to the Big 5 elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhinos and is located on 2,800 hectares of primeval savanna.
‘When elephants enter the lodge, they know they are in your territory, and having you approach them while they are relaxing in their territory is a very different proposition.
‘If you approached them at their waterhole, they would see you as a threat, but when they enter the lodge, everything smells humans, so they are not surprised by humans.
‘I think the elephant thought I was a deck decoration and was a bit surprised when I moved. However, he wasn’t aggressive even knowing I was a human,’ he said.
African elephants can grow up to 13 feet at the shoulder and weigh 12,000lb.