A 10-foot tall 9,000-pound bundle of muscle versus a 16-foot long 900-pound package of teeth. Logic dictates that between two full-grown animals, the crocodile would want to steer clear and for the most part they do. Technically, elephants have no natural enemies.
But will a crocodile attack an elephant? The answer: Yes. Often enough for writer Rudyard Kipling to craft a story about it (The Elephant’s Child).
Once in a while, an opportunistic crocodile will brave the fury of adult elephants and attempt to make a meal of a calf. In general, the vigilance of the adult females makes this difficult and failure costly since a mother elephant can be savage in defense of her young. Despite the croc’s armor-like skin, an elephant can crush it under foot.
Crocodiles have also attacked adult elephants—usually in the water and by latching onto a trunk. Crocodiles hunting larger prey in the water tend to bite whatever they can reach and then use their weight and muscle to drag the prey underwater to drown it. From that perspective, a trunk is a tempting target, especially if the crocodile is submerged and its vision less than optimal. The attacks might have simply been mistakes or an effort to drive the elephants away so other prey would be easier to hunt. We may never know the why, but we do know it happens.
For the elephants, while death by crocodile is rare, a damaged trunk can prove to be a fatal handicap since this fusion of nose and upper lip is used for everything from breathing, to eating, to drinking.
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