Luxury UK safari operator sued for £200,000 after woman trampled by ‘grumpy’ elephant

Sara Graves was trampled on by the 10-tonne elephant after it flapped its ears, trumpeted and charged at her while she was on the 7-night luxury safari, court papers show

Sara Graves was injured in an elephant attack

A luxury UK safari operator is being sued for over £200,000 after a woman was trampled by a “grumpy” elephant in a tented camp on the Serengeti.

Sara Graves, a university lecturer and academic researcher, says she suffered a broken pelvis and other injuries after a rogue bull elephant attacked her at the Lemala Ndutu safari camp in Tanzania in March 2019.

Ms Graves, who paid around £4,400 for the 7-night luxury safari holiday – which included staying in tented camps boasting leather sofas and chandeliers, says she was chased and trampled within the confines of the mobile bush camp just after leaving her tent.

The 36 year old, who was on safari with her sister, says she has been left emotionally scarred, as well as physically damaged by the incident.

She is now suing Surrey-based safari specialist Yellow Zebra Travel Ltd – which has been named Europe’s leading safari operator seven years in a row at the World Travel Awards.

She is blaming the company for camp staff failing to keep her safe from a dangerous wild beast.

Lemala Ndutu safari camp in Tanzania



In papers lodged with London’s High Court, lawyers for Ms Graves, who lives in Vancouver, Canada, say that she booked her safari through Kingston-upon-Thames-based Yellow Zebra after reading material on their website stating: “We have always employed the very best specialists…We want to inspire your complete confidence, so that when you book with us you know you’re being looked after from the beginning of your safari to the end…. You’re in safe hands!”

Julian Carter-Mannning, director and co-founder of the company, says in a video on the Yellow Zebra website: “You really are in very good hands.

“Our staff design trips that they would go on themselves.

“Their job is to look after you…any safety concerns.

“From the moment you inquire to the moment you get back, we look after you.”

The elephant attack happened, her lawyers say, while she was staying at Lemala Ndutu, a luxury mobile camp on the southern borders of the Serengeti comprising “nine spacious tents, each with their own en suite, complete with a flush toilet” and a ” central mess tent…beautifully furnished with leather sofas, chests, rugs and even chandeliers”.

The camp in the evening



Court papers describe how Ms Graves and her sister had “encountered a lone bull elephant which was missing a section of one tusk” and “appeared grumpy/ready to charge” whilst on a game drive close to the camp on the morning of March 7, 2019.

“At this time, they were the only residents at the camp. The camp was not fenced or enclosed; there were no barriers between the boundaries of the camp and the surrounding bush and its wild game,” her barrister Matthew Chapman QC says.

On the afternoon of the same day, Ms Graves had just left her tent to make her way to the central mess tent and was walking on the “main path” through the camp when she suddenly came upon the same elephant, blocking her path.

“The claimant did not know that the elephant was in the camp. The elephant was grazing the bushes to the side of the path when the claimant first encountered him.

“The elephant heard the claimant’s footsteps, looked at her and flapped his ears. He trumpeted and lifted his front legs before charging the claimant.

“The claimant turned and ran, heading for cover in some thorn bushes because the tent was zipped up and was too far away to provide shelter. The elephant reached the claimant and knocked her down before trampling/attacking her.”

Julian Carter-Manning, co-owner of Yellow Zebra Travel Ltd



Her sister and camp staff heard her screams and rushed to help, finding her on the ground with the elephant still attacking.

They threw rocks and bottles to scare the animal away and it backed off after 30 to 60 seconds, he continues.

“The claimant was pulled from the bushes. After a considerable delay, the claimant was taken by jeep to a local airstrip from where she was evacuated by medevac aircraft,” the barrister says.

“It was an implied term of the parties’ contract that the defendant would ensure that accommodation and connected services were provided with reasonable care and skill so as to enable the claimant to be reasonably safe,” he adds.

Her lawyers also claim that camp staff were aware the elephant was in the camp and that Ms Graves was alone in her tent before the attack took place.

Camp staff should not have permitted or allowed Ms Graves “to return to her tent on foot, alone, unarmed and unescorted, at a time when an aggressive lone bull elephant was known to be in the camp vicinity and, indeed, was in the camp at the material time,” they add.

Sara Graves is suing the company



Instead of making sure she was safe “having seen the lone bull elephant in camp and after pointing it out to (her sister) Jessica Graves, (a member of camp staff) went to collect and arrange beers and sodas at a time when the claimant was unaccounted for,” the court papers claim.

Her barrister goes on to say that as well as having her pelvis smashed by being stepped on by the 10-tonne beast, she suffered disc prolapses, cuts and abrasions and “emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder including symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and nightmares”.

“The claimant continues to suffer from weakness and fatigue. There are a number of continuing psychological symptoms which require investigation and treatment,” the barrister says.

Ms Graves’ claim was filed in February, but the papers have only now been made public and it has not yet gone before a judge in court.

The defense of Yellow Zebra Travel Ltd is not currently available from the court.

Yellow Zebra were contacted but Julian Carter-Manning said: “Unfortunately due to ongoing litigation regarding this case we cannot comment.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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