A KIRKLEES man is lucky to be alive after a terrifying attack by a rampaging elephant.
Jonathan Sykes was on a camping expedition in the Kenyan bush with eight other tourists and two guides when the elephant struck.
The 24-year-old from Cleckheaton revealed that after failing to outrun the giant beast, he pretended he was dead in a bid to fool it into leaving him alone.
At first Jonathan and the rest of the group watched the elephant disappear into trees and thought it had just wandered off.
But it suddenly came charging out of the undergrowth just a few yards from the group.
Jonathan said: “It was going at full speed and making a loud trumpeting sound.
“I turned and ran, but I could hear his feet thumping behind me. It was a thundering sound.’’
At first Jonathan tried to give the elephant the slip by zig-zagging through a large clump of thorn bushes, but it smashed him on the back with its trunk and knocked him to the ground.
“That’s when I decided to curl up in a ball and play dead,’’ he said. “I could hear it breathing and it started pushing me along with its feet like a football for about 15 metres.
“It then gored the ground near me and that’s when I think it caught the back of my calf, ripping the muscle in half.
“It flipped me over with its tusks before trumpeting one more time and heading off. I think it could smell blood and thought I was dead.
“As it walked away it looked back one more time and then vanished into the bush.’’
Jonathan was airlifted to hospital and lost five pints of blood. He needed 80 stitches in his leg which had been slashed from knee to ankle.
Doctors told him the tusk had missed a major artery by just 5mm.
He is now recovering back at home and is managing to get around on crutches.
Jonathan had been in Kenya building a school before taking a break on the expedition.
He bears the elephant no grudges.
“He was just doing what comes naturally and defending himself from potential threat,’’ he said. “You can’t really blame an animal for doing that.’’