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Tourists in South Africa attacked by elephants

April 15, 2013

One man was airlifted to a hospital after an elephant attacked a vehicle he and another tourist were traveling in April 15. Elephant attacks are becoming more common as their large herbivores living space is contracting, according to National Geographic.

Reason for attack unknown
According to South African officials, the elephant attacked a passenger vehicle carrying two tourists of "Chinese origin," at 6:30 a.m. local time, in the area around the Kruger National Park.

The park sits in South Africa's northeast region, adjacent to Zimbabwe and Mozambique. 

The more seriously injured male passenger remains in critical condition and is being treated for multiple rib fractures. The woman he was traveling with was admitted with a fractured pelvis. Both will be transferred to a Pretoria area hospital. 

Park spokesman William Mabasa said it is unclear what provoked the elephant attack, reports USA today. 

Elephant attacks on the rise
Elephant attacks kill more than 500 people a year, according to National Geographic, and some experts believe that number will continue to rise.

"I do think that elephants are becoming more aggressive towards humans in very compressed areas where they are being shot at and harassed," Stanford University biologist Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell told the news outlet. 

The elephant population will continued to feel the effects of compressions, says Dr. O'Connell-Rodwell, as the human population continues to rise and push local farmers into preserve land.

Elephants are the largest land mammal, and the planet's largest herbivore - a single herd can consume an entire field of in one night.

The animals are not attacking humans out of hunger, but do seem to be intentionally killing them, according to National Geographic. As these activities exceed aggression levels usually observed in the animals among themselves, some researchers are wondering if the attacks are a specific reaction due to their experience with man. 

"Battles over territories rarely come to extreme violence - nothing like what is happening in India, with elephants killing farmers on a very frequent basis," Dr. O'Connell-Rodwell told the source.

Elephants are a protected species and though some areas have engaged in active population control where confrontations between humans and elephants has turned deadly, in many areas officials are looking for non-lethal ways to control the elephant population.

Taking advantage to the species natural aversion to chili powder, Indian officials have used aerial squads to shoot powder at the animals to herd them from farmers' fields to habitat areas.

Some researchers also expressed hope that elephant based tourism to places like Kruger National Park will create incentives for governments to protect and preserve elephant habitats.

Those who've escaped a close call with elephants or other wildlife can pick-up an international calling card and tell friends about their near-death brush with nature. 

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