Why Don’t Animals Attack Safari Jeeps? (3 Reasons)

Why Don't Animals Attack Safari Jeeps
Fact Checked and Reviewed by: Mark Rhodes, Ph.D. - Wildlife Biologist
Dr. Mark Rhodes holds an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife along with a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology. He helps maintain our editorial standards of accuracy and quality. You can read more about Dr. Rhodes here.

Let’s face it. Only the most adventurous thrill-seekers would go on a safari if they believed there was a possibility of being taken down by a lion or hippopotamus on their travels. Even though lions are portrayed as great predators, however, there are only rare occasions that an animal might act aggressively toward a safari jeep.

The truth is, it’s really hard to answer why an animal might not do something. Since we don’t really have all that much insight into what animals are thinking, all we can do is make inferences and hypotheses about animal behavior and why they do what they do.

So, why don’t animals attack safari jeeps or other safari vehicles?

Animals may not attack safari jeeps because they do not look like typical prey and because vehicles are bigger than any prey they might take down. Additionally, they become accustomed to safari vehicles over time and likely won’t see them as a threat, just something foreign that sometimes travels through the wild. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at some reasons as to why animals don’t attack safari jeeps, including the predator-prey relationship, being familiar with the vehicle, and not feeling threatened. Let’s jump in.

The Predator-Prey Relationship

While you won’t see a lion meal prepping or writing down a meal plan, research shows that predators are intelligent enough to select prey that provides them with the most balanced nutrition. This all comes back to their instinct for survival, as eating nutritionally better foods increases the chance of raising healthy offspring.

Safari vehicles aren’t really in the average animal’s diet. That means that when a safari jeep comes across a lion’s pride, it’s unlikely that the lions are going to try and take it down.

Being inside or nearby the safari vehicle helps visitors stay safe. While we cannot say for sure, predators likely see humans on safari as appendages of the big vehicle they are in, particularly since safari typically follows areas not frequented by cars and other humans. They avoid this large vehicle for the same reason they don’t try to take down full size rhinos or elephants; in most cases, it isn’t worth the effort.

Familiarity With the Vehicle

In most cases, safari vehicles travel through national parks or other areas that are specifically designated for preserving wildlife. The area would have been traveled by members of the safari company long before it was opened to the public as well. For example, in Tanzania, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people visit the safari every year.

Even though safari jeeps are big and might be intimidating at first, the animals likely get used to them pretty quickly. That’s the only reason that visitors are able to see so many animals in their natural habitat. If they were scared of the safari vehicle, they’d likely run off somewhere and hide (or they would attack).

They Don’t Feel Threatened

There are two basic reasons that a wild animal might attack you. First, they see you as prey. This may happen if you come across a big cat or crocodile while you’re out on your own, but it’s a much lower risk when you’re on safari.

The second reason that a predator might attack you is because they feel threatened. This triggers a flight-or-fight reaction in the animal. Basically, it’s you or them and they’re always going to choose to protect themselves.

Why Do Lions Ignore Safari Vehicles?

Lions do not always ignore safari vehicles, but they do sometimes get curious. Like any animal, they will not attack if they do not view the vehicle as prey and they do not feel threatened. This is the reason people are often instructed to stay seated and quiet when there are animals nearby.

Here is a video of an extra-friendly lion that got up close and personal with some visitors on safari.

In addition to the reasons above, lions ignore safari vehicles because they are familiar with them rolling through the area. If they’ve never had a negative experience with safari vehicles, they have no reason to be afraid or attack it.

Why Do Tigers Ignore Safari Vehicles?

While you won’t see the mighty, sharp-toothed tiger on an African safari, there are safaris and expeditions that view tigers in other parts of the world. Tigers, like lions, are unlikely to attack safari vehicles.

Safari vehicles are not a tiger’s typical prey. So, it’s unlikely that it’s going to move away from instinct and everything it knows to attack a big jeep or anything like that, even if the windows are open. Plus, tigers living in areas where safari vehicles frequent are likely used to them, so it won’t disturb them because it doesn’t feel threatened.

In addition to all the reasons mentioned above, tigers are also solitary hunters, unlike lions. Even as the biggest cat, tigers are unlikely to try and bring down something as big as a safari vehicle.

Why Do Animals Approach Safari Vehicles?

Sometimes, predators like lions and cheetahs do approach safari vehicles. You can see countless videos of this happening on Youtube- here’s a quick look at one.

Animals like this might approach safari vehicles out of curiosity. After all, safari jeeps smell and look much different than anything that occurs in the natural world. Once these animals do not feel they are in danger, it’s not uncommon for them to get closer and try to understand what it is they are seeing.

Why Don’t Animals Attack Safari Jeeps When They Approach Them?

Even when animals approach a safari vehicle, they are not likely to attack as long as they don’t view the vehicle (or the people on it) as prey or a threat. This is one of the reasons that it is so important for visitors to listen to their tour guide and follow all rules, like staying seated when animals are nearby and avoiding loud noises or sudden movements.

For example, if a person gets scared and separates from the group, they are no longer part of the whole and it’s likely a predator will try to take them down. Tour guides often carry weapons for this reason, to use as a last resort should an animal become more than just curious.

Are Open Top Safari Vehicles Safe?

Many people are surprised to learn that most safari vehicles are open on top. While this isn’t going to protect you from the weather, it also won’t protect you from the animals on safari should something go wrong.

That being said, most companies do use open-top vehicles and they are generally safe. It gives everyone the best chance at seeing the natural wilderness around them. Plus, as we’ve already talked about, there are several reasons that animals don’t usually attack safari vehicles, not even predators like lions and tigers.

Final Word

So, why don’t animals attack safari jeeps and other safari vehicles?

First, they don’t see them as prey. Unless a human separates from the vehicle, they are seen as a large beast that predators aren’t going to try and take down.

Second, animals that live in these areas are used to seeing jeeps on safari. Many have also had pleasant or non-threatening experiences with these safari vehicles in the past, so they also are not threatened.

Hopefully, this has given you more reason to feel safe if you ever go on a safari.