At the end of last night’s game drive a heavy wind starting blowing across the reserve, bringing with it some colder weather. The wind continued into the night and when we arose this morning the conditions were still breezy and chilly. We set off from the lodge to search for elephants, knowing that it was going to be a difficult mission due to the weather conditions.
It is interesting to witness the behavior of animals in these weather conditions. Those animals which are preyed on by big cats tend to be extremely nervous and skittish because the wind interferes with their ability to sense the arrival of a predator. Some of the bigger mammals such as elephants and rhinos can be difficult to find, because like us they do not really like the wind and so search for somewhere to shelter deep into the bush until it has passed. So surprisingly elephants can be a real challenge to find even in spite of their immense size!
So thinking positive we headed straight to the area where they were last seen and starting looking for tracks and signs. As we drove slowly we looked for footprints on the ground and as we found the tracks we checked to see whether they were old or fresh. On seeing the first tracks I got out of the vehicle to show them to the guests and explain how to tell direction and freshness so that they could get involved and help in the search. Eventually we found some fresh tracks. We knew they were fresh because they were over the top of some vehicle tracks from the day before. So we began to follow them. As we continued we saw other signs that the elephants had been in the area – flattened grass where they had created their pathways through the bush and freshly broken trees where the outer bark had been removed and the inner flesh was exposed. And eventually we were rewarded for our efforts. As we rounded the corner we saw the herd standing close together in the road. As we were watching them carrying on with their daily routine, we noticed a boisterous young male running around and mock charging everything he could see – even a pile of dung on the ground! He is the youngest member of the herd and still only 6 weeks old.
Full of smiles we set off to continue our drive. We decided to stop for a coffee and warm up and whilst we were drinking our coffee a bachelor group of giraffes approached curiously. They gave us a fantastic display, challenging each other and trying to knock each other off balance by swinging their necks around. It looked as though they were dancing! Giraffes use their necks to fight when they are competing for females. This was not a serious fight – it was a training exercise! A small herd of zebra and some impalas also emerged into the open area. So after having to work so hard to find the elephants it was nice that some animals actually came to find us!
Story by Roan Ravenhill – (Ranger) Kapama River Lodge