To round out our series on tropical insects and poisonous animals, water-born diseases, and other unpleasantnesses, we have been asked why we do not set out the rules on how to deal with large game and other dangerous large animals. This is a very good question and represents an obvious lacuna in our scholarship to date.
Although this might seem frivolous, attack by large animals is more common than you think if you are in the specific parts of the world where these animals live. When they are in the wild, they can all be very dangerous.
Typically you will approach one of these animals in a car. This may cause the animal to get upset, because it sees the car either as something dangerous to its children or as something to eat. In extremis, you may need to get out of the car to save yourself - which will also be highly problematic because you will be a long way from civilisation.
Elephant having one type of interaction with car
African elephants are very large and very serious. They are the most dangerous animals in the world. (Contrast Indian elephants, that are smaller and much more placid. Just don't get in their way when they are walking somewhere.)
African elephants generally consider cars to be dangerous animals that need to be attacked. A good indication that they are unhappy with the presence of a car (for example, because their young are close) is that they start flapping their ears and waving their trunk. This is very bad and may indicate imminent assault.
African elephants can typically run at 25 mph so they can outrun most off-road vehicles. Go into reverse gently then try to do a lightning U-turn and drive off at great speed. But they may come after you, waving their trunks and flapping their ears, also making very loud trumpeting noises. All while running at 25mph. If they catch up with you, you are probably going to die as they flip the car with their trunk or just sit on it (see above). Another example of an elephant-car interaction of a highly undesirable kind appears below:
Elephant having second type of interaction with car
There are specialist courses on such things: several weeks' training on how to deal with all sorts of different elephants and interpreting the flapping of the ears, waving of the trunk, etcetera. However we don't know anything about such silly courses run by twenty-two groups of badly trained nincompoops.
We have outdriven an African elephant on many occasions but it was touch and go. Don't get close to them. They are extremely dangerous.
Shooting them isn't going to help unless you have an elephant gun (typical 0.50 bore). These are rather serious weapons and they do have a certain element of recoil. Shoot the animal in the head at close range and that should fell it, amidst a lot of noise on its part and an extremely sore shoulder on yours.
You'll probably only get one shot. Take it when you are not moving.
'Elephant gun'. This one takes two rounds but you won't get the chance to discharge the second if the first is not effective. Try to have padding on your shoulder or you may dislocate your shoulder when firing the weapon.
Hippopotami are notoriously dangerous and you should not be going anywhere near them. They live in large pools of dirty water. Stay away from those pools. Do not drive up to the edge of the pool in your car or on foot to get a close look, or they are likely to consider you (in a car or out of one) a meal. Or they may keep you as a meal for later.
Hippopotami tend to spot their food, calmly get ready to attack, and then open their mouths and start sprinting towards their food and put the whole thing in their mouth. By this point it may be too late. As soon as you spot a hippo looking at you, slowly turn the car around (or walk backwards) and then run or drive for your life. Many people want to get a closer look at the hippo up front. This turns out to be the last thing they ever do. The hippo will have devoured them within just a few seconds.
Hippo expressing clear desire to eat you
If you see the below, it is very problematic. It means that the hippo is planning on running out of the water by surprise and with great speed, and eating you:
Hippo creating straightforward plan to eat you. Note the intense facial expression
Unlike elephants, hippos are omnivores. If they are running at you it is not because they want to chase you away. It is because they intend to eat you.
To shoot a hippo you need a large bore high velocity handgun such as the AMT .45 Longslide Hardballer; or a .40 Magnum Round should be sufficient. You need to be a good marksman. You may only get one shot before it's eaten your arms. Aim between the eyes. If its mouth is open, shoot into the mouth such that the bullet will pass into its brain.
Californian senior politician Mr. A. Schwarzenegger 'buying' his hippo gun. The AMT Longslide, a large bore (.45) semi-automatic handgun more than a century old, remains the best in its class and the preferrred handgun of this author, because it is all of exceptionally powerful, reliable (it seldom jams even with a full magazine) and without the sort of heavy recoil typical of more modern large bore handguns, particularly when fitted with a laser sight above the barrel and a suppressor. Sometimes the oldies are the best.
Some people hunt hippo with high power crossbows but this seems a singularly dangerous hobby and we have only tried it when we fancied a change in routines. You'll have to get it in the head or it's just going to ignore the bolt and get upset with you, likely resulting in an eating scenario.
Large herbivores who can nevertheless express their dissatisfaction with cars in particular by running at speeds of up to 35 mph. Big armoured heads make them particularly difficult to stop and desist.
Rhinocerous interacting with car it appears to have taken objection to. Interaction involves repeatedly flipping the car over with passengers inside
Due to its natural armour, it is not clear that any conventional firearm is sufficient to disable a rhinocerous with certainty. You could try a GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun). Alternatively one could try a hand grenade or even an anti-tank missile. Rhinocerous interactions with humans are thankfully rare.
FN MAG General Purpose Machine Gun potentially suitable for rhinocerous control
NLAW RB-57 next generation light anti-tank weapon. 'Fire and forget' mechanism. Already in use
L91081 British Special Forces grenade
Nota bene. There is a snubnose handgun called the Rhino, which as a compact revolver is an excellent choice for a concealed weapon. However it is not suitable to shoot rhinos! The rounds fired from a Rhino, being of lower velocity, will just bounce off a rhino (probably).
Two versions of the distinctive Chiappa Rhino, a revolver that features a useful two-stage trigger (for accuracy) in its 20DS (lightweight) model (right).
Cheetahs, jaguars, leopards etc
There are lots of big cats that look like this and they should all be treated the same way: extremely dangerous if they look in any way animated. They are all pretty much the same - very fast large carnivores that think you look tasty. They can all accelerate from zero to very fast virtually instantaneously. The cheetah is the fastest, and it can run at speeds of up to 80 mph, being the fastest land animal in the world.
Obviously if one decides to come at you, whether you are in a car or not, you've got a big problem. They can flip a small car or break the glass with their giant paws, and you definitely don't want things to start looking like this:
Cheetah having entered car and having apparently found food in the form of person's arm
If you have one coming at you, a decent high velocity .35 bore rifle should do the trick. A fully automatic assault rifle should polish it off without any problems. Or you can try a sawn off shotgun at point blank range. Don't bother with a handgun (unless the thing is sitting next to you in the driver's seat); you can't hit a target with a handgun when it's moving at 80 mph. You really need to know what you are doing.
Typical large bore rifles for shooting fast powerful animals
Lions and tigers
These are fairly straightforward. If one comes at you, just empty the clip of a semi-automatic 9mm handgun into it until it stops coming.
The Beretta Pico, a convenient reliable 9mm semi-automatic firearm suitable for control of big cats
Colt Mustang Pocket Lite, another suitable compact firearm for big cat control but taking a .380 round. These may or may not be more difficult to obtain than 9mm rounds in certain circumstances in certain jurisdictions
MP-443 Grach, a standard Russian firearm carried by Russian special police and internal security forces. A rather more powerful handgun where permanent big cat disablement may be necessary either in the past or in the future
Stag, moose etc
These are big boys. You need a large bore elephant gun for these guys, or an automatic assault rifle. Otherwise you'll be blasting away at them all day and they won't even notice.
AK-94, which should come in handy for Russian moose problems
SA-80 combat rifle preferrred by serving British personnel
These are big fellows and they can go from calm to very aggressive for no reason. They can also just break into your house and eat you or the contents of your fridge. See e..g.:
Bear 'opening' window to enter property
Bear manifesting its presence at the kitchen window, with an indicative desire to enter
Bear seemingly unhappy upon inspection of living room
Bear opening door using handle
Bear ascending staircase because it didn't find sufficient food downstairs
The above is very common in parts of Canada, and if it happens you have a big problem because these bears are hungry.
In parts of North America you can buy bear spray which is a giant version of a pepper spray designed for bears. It's not clear how effective it really is though, if the bear is determined to come into your house on a culinary mission.
You need a bear gun. A G20 Glock 10mm semi-automatic should do the trick. Just blast away between the eyes until it stops moving. Or a .44 Magnum revolver should work well. Not many bears are going to keep coming after a shot in the head with one of those. Shoot bears at short range.
G20 Glock 10mm with laser sighting. Good for bear defence
Smith & Wesson 629 six-inch barrel .44 Magnum revolver. It remains the best revolver and (one of the) most powerful handguns in the world. Shorter barrels, right down to the snubnose (three inch), are available. Eight to nine inch barrels of the kind found in the 'Dirty Harry' series of movies are no longer manufactured by Smith & Wesson. They were considered too slow to draw and too heavy to hold steady in order to fire.
Emus, ostriches and other large birds
Although these sorts of flightless birds rarely actually kill humans, they can be nine feet tall and run at speeds like 45 mph. It's pretty alarming if a group of them suddenly decide they find you interesting because you look like a piece of food.
The best solution is a large magazine semi-automatic handgun. Beretta have a number of large magazine 9mm handguns that are perfect for these sorts of animals in big groups. Or a good machine pistol should get rid of them. An Uzi 9mm or a Heckler & Koch MP5 is always a good bet. Aim at the centres of their bodies.
Typical Heckler & Koch extended magazine machine pistol useful in addressing problens with groups of giant aggressive birds
These enormous herbivores are completely harmless and will not attack you. The only thing they might do is trample on you by accident because they are walking somewhere and their head is at so much higher a level than you. Get out of their way.
The other thing they can do is to grab a piece of fruit out of your hand or bag if they spot you have it (more likely if for some reason you are at their head level - for example you are up a tree for some purpose probably ill-advised in giraffe territory). This is totally harmless, because giraffes don't have any teeth. They just have giant soft gums. The very worst they will do is to put your entire forearm in their mouth attached to their giant head and scoop all the food from you in an alarming but painless motion.
Giraffe coming to look at what you have to eat (photo taken from below)
There is no reason to shoot a giraffe and therefore we do not provide any advice on how to do it.
The same is true of zebras. Just don't get in their way when they are going for a collective gallop somewhere. Aside from this they are totally harmless.
Typical Bowie knife that may be of use in preparing giraffe and zebra steaks
Alligators and crocodiles
Aligator (left); crocodile (right)
Both animals are aggressive and dangerous. Their main differences are:
Snout (u-shaped in alligators; pointed in crocodiles)
Colour (black / grey for alligators; green / brown for crocodiles)
Water: freshwater for alligators; saltwater for crocodiles
Size: crocodiles are larger than alligators
Aggressiveness: crocodiles are highly aggressive at all times; aligators may not be aggressive if they do not feel hungry or in threat.
There are two well established methods of disarming a crocodile: (a) jamming your pen just behind its eyes; or (b) reaching into its mouth and pulling out its teeth. We hear from an 'unreliable source' that the second is even easier than the first.
Crocodiles are heavily armoured, so guns are no use. A small sharp axe blow, delivered to the head just behind the eyes, should kill it dead. We often keep one of these close to hand, along with the antidote pills for crocodile venom.
Group of Anglo-American hunters, as well as with hunters from an Eastern European country (unspecified), celebrating their kill of a large aggressive but ultimately rather fat crocodile
Gorillas often go round in packs, acting under the instructions of some leader or other; but their pack order is notoriously undisciplined when the lead gorilla is not present at the scene. Hence they are rarely dangerous - seldom even an irritation - as they are not focused upon their core gorilla activities of sleeping, eating and shitting.
Kel-Tech CP33 22LR handgun, with a magazine capacity of 33 rounds. Perfect for dispersing confused and angry gorillas. Notice the matching suppressor
The legality of shooting large animals for fun ('game hunting') varies widely by jurisdiction; but shooting in self-defence is usually acceptable in all circumstances. Check the law before you decide which weapon to carry. Nobody is going to blame you for carrying an elephant gun for purely defensive purposes in elephant territory. But if your goal is to poach elephants for their ivory, you may have some very serious problems with local law enforcement which in parts of Africa in particular may be rather summary in its execution. In other words the wardens may just shoot you on the spot.
Good luck, and the best rule is to stay away from these sorts of animals. Take a licensed warden with you if possible, and if necessary he can do the shooting.
These things are as dangerous as you want them to be. If you build a log cabin in bear country, you're going to find bears coming into your house. We have been attacked by several large dangerous animals in Africa, but that's because we went on cowboy safaris looking for trouble. And we found it. Cheap safaris are a really good way of having problems.