Representational image of an elephant. Photo: AFP / Biju BORO

A herd of angry elephants almost trampled a family of three in Malaysia while they were on their way to Terengganu State from the island of Penang.

The incident occurred on Sunday night when the car they were travelling in struck one of two calves. It was drizzling and the visibility was not too good when Mohd Azian Mohd Noor, a 48-year-old medical assistant, was driving his family back from the island.

As soon as the car struck the calf, a herd of wild elephants charged towards their car and began hitting the left doors of the car and smashing its windscreen. During all this commotion, the calf got back up on its feet, and the driver was able to restart the car and speed away.

"My wife, who was seated in the rear, screamed and said all of us were surely going to be killed," The Independent quoted Noor as saying.

"The elephants trampled on the left doors of the car and smashed the rear windscreen. It was a most frightening moment because the elephants were trumpeting loudly. We were worried that they would topple the car".

However, the family was fortunate as they were able to escape without injuries.

Elephants may come across as mellow animals, but in reality, they can be extremely aggressive, especially if they feel threatened.

Human-elephant conflicts have been on the rise as more and more forest areas are encroached on. The experts believe that these incidents could be prevented if tuskers were identified and continuously tracked.

This was not an isolated incident. Similar incidents have been reported from different parts of the world, including Malaysia.

Highways across Malaysia have signs warning motorists to be aware of animals crossing roads, but that does not ensure you will not run into an elephant. In 2017, a two-year-old elephant was found on a Malaysian highway after the baby animal was reportedly killed by a car.

In 2020, a visibly distressed elephant trampled on a car on the same highway. The elephant was walking alone on the road when the incident took place. According to local authorities, the elephant is believed to have panicked after several vehicles began honking at it.

Rapid development and deforestation have increased the incidents of human-animal conflict in the region. The elephants often raid crops, trample homes, and sometimes even kill people. Humans also retaliate by sometimes poisoning or shooting these elephants, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

Malaysia has around 1,000–1,500 elephants that are classified as "endangered" under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.