‘Scared’ rhino charges at tourist jeep and causes it to flip over, injuring six

A “scared” rhino that was trying to cross a road with her calf charged at a tourist jeep after it came too close, leading the vehicle to topple over in a freak accident in India that left six people injured.

The jeep had a driver, tourist guide, and four tourists onboard when the rhinos emerged from a tall bush.

The animal, that wanted to cross the road with its calf, could be seen charging at the jeep as soon as it began to reverse, leading it to eventually topple to one side of the road, showed a 30-second-long viral video.

The mishap took place in the eastern West Bengal state on Saturday noon at the Jaldapara national park, famous for having a 290-strong population of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros.

The national park’s divisional forest officer Deepak M said the tourist vehicle was on a safari. Tourists were photographing the animal when it suddenly emerged from behind the tall grass.

“One of the tourists who saw the rhino panicked and made a sound because of which the animal also got scared. The vehicle was reversing as it tried to back off but the driver lost control of the jeep slightly, which led the vehicle to slide off the jungle tracks,” Mr Deepak told The Independent on Tuesday.

In the viral video, the driver could be seen frantically reversing his vehicle, missing the forest track and skidding off on the right, as the two rhinos ran away into the wild.

Fortunately for the tourists, the rhino and its calf were gone at the time of rescue efforts, said the top forest official. Rhinos can attack humans and maim them if the animals feel threatened.

He added that people in another jeep, from the point of view of which the video was filmed, rushed to aid the tourists. All six injured were taken to a hospital near the park, Mr Deepak said.

He said this was a one-off incident and added that the forest division was taking critical measures to prevent such incidents.

“We are clearing the roadside areas by removing grass up to five metres from along the tracks for more visibility on these tracks. This is to ensure that people are able to spot the rhinos when they come very close as Jaldapara is a grassland area with tall grasses,” he said.

“What happens is that when the rhino comes close to the safari vehicles, people are unable to see it. This is a dry season, the colour of the grass in these months makes for a good camouflage for the animals and people are unable to see the rhinos clearly,” Mr Deepak explained.

The national park will also ensure first-aid kits will be kept in all jeeps immediately, the official said.

Officials are also holding a refresher course for all the roughly 55-60 jeep drivers and forest guides employed by the national park.

“These forest personnel will be educated on what to do under such circumstances as we saw that both got scared – the tourists and the animal,” Mr Deepak said.

The video also sparked discussions on social media as many criticised interactions with large animals in close proximity.

“I think it’s about time guidelines for safety and rescue in adventure sports are implemented in wildlife safaris across the country,” tweeted Akash Deep Badhawan, an Indian forest services officer.

“Safaris are becoming more of adventure sports now!”