is the online portfolio and journal of Australian travel writer Nina Karnikowski.


Published in 5000 newspapers, magazines and websites across the globe including New York Post, Huffington Post, Daily Mail UK, and National Geographic, and aired on TV in over 80 countries. Our video of the little elephant that could

We never thought Hercules would survive.

The seven-year-old juvenile elephant, who I watched get attacked by 14 ravenous lionesses just a few days ago while on safari with Bench International safari company at South Luangwa National Park in Zambia in East Africa, had every odd stacked against him.

When I arrived at the scene with my four travel companions – New York journalist Jesse Nash, Long Island art professor Dan Christoffel, British naturalist Steve Baker and our Zambian guide Innocent – the lionesses were already leaping on the little guy’s back and rear flanks, sinking their claws and teeth into his young flesh.

Where was his herd? Why was he all alone? How long had the lionesses been after him?

As we sat in our Jeep, just fifty metres from the horrific scene, it took all the strength we had not to leap from the vehicle and try to fight the lionesses off ourselves. It wasn’t easy, but we had to remind ourselves that this was the law of the jungle, this is how things work in the circle of life and it wasn’t up to us to interfere. Even though at this point, we were almost certain he would be torn apart right there in front of us.

Incredibly, after watching the lionesses continuously jumping on the elephant’s back over and over again, he had the strength to shake them off and the sense to run into the water where we were sure the lions wouldn’t follow, scared as they are of the water.

But we were wrong.

They’d had a taste of his flesh and were desperate for more; so desperate that they waded through the water and continued to attack.

Suddenly, Hercules (as we later nicknamed the baby ele) decided enough was enough. He spun around and charged the lionesses, waving and trumpeting his trunk, flapping his ears and scaring the living daylights out of them. Finally, Hercules had managed to show them, through sheer courage and bravery, that he wasn’t going to be their dinner and that they’d picked the wrong elephant to mess with. He reached the other side of the water, the lions gave up, and Hercules was soon reunited with his 60-strong herd.

When the horrific scene was finally over, while we downed double G&T’s on the front of the Jeep to soothe our nerves, a shell-shocked Innocent managed to mutter that in over 20 years of guiding in the area, he had never seen anything like this. We were able to finally rest easy when we discovered the same pack of lionesses feasting on a buffalo as their alternative dinner half an hour later.

There are moments in life when I feel overwhelmed. When I feel like I can’t be bothered to go on fighting, like I’m just about ready to throw my hands up in defeat and just give up. But now, when these moments arise, I’ll spare a thought for Hercules. The little elephant who decided that actually, life is worth the fight.



1 Comment

  1. Julie
    November 18, 2014

    Hello Nina – We’re producing Animals Gone Wild for National Geographic. We’d like to license the Hercules video. Do you own it? Please contact me at Thank you!


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