Thursday, July 11, 2013

Part of the Herd

Greetings All,
A few days ago we got to view an elephant herd from the bunker.  The bunker is a concrete structure built into the ground 20 meters away from the waterhole.  There is a slit in the front through which you can view and photograph animals that come to the waterhole.

Marc Photographing Elephants from the Bunker  

It's an amazing experience to watch an elephant herd approach from ground level.

Slit Ear's Herd Approaches

The herd that came in is known as Slit Ear's Herd, named after the matriarch that has a large slit in her left ear.  The herd is made up of around 24 individuals.  Herd composition is broken down by size and age.  There are 4 full grown females, aged somewhere between 15 and 45 years, five 3/4-sized individuals aged between 10 and 15 years, six 1/2-sized individuals between the age of 3 and 10 years, seven 1/4-sized individuals from 1 to 3 years old and 3 babies less than 1 year old in the herd.  They stopped at the trough to quench their thirst.

The Herd Drinks from the Trough

Elephants drink a lot of water, about 225 liters per day!  Then can suck up to 9 liters in their trucks at a time and squirt it into their mouths.  We aren't seeing the same herds at the waterhole everyday but they seem to show up every 2 to 3 days.  Once their thirst was quenched, they turned their attention to us.  One inquisitive member of the herd stuck his trunk down into the hatch of the bunker through which we entered.

Trunk in the bunker!
Another curious fellow peered at us through the hatch.
I See You!

We were quite safe in the bunker and could enjoy being part of the herd.  Slit Ear kept a watchful eye on us.

Slit Ear Keeps an Eye on Us

The youngsters approached the bunker trying to figure out who these strangers among the herd were.

Come out, Come out Whoever you Are!

A teeny baby just weeks old was tucked safely under mom's belly.

Elephant Calf
Typically a single calf is born every 4 years after a nearly 2 year gestation.  They are cared for by their mothers and other young females in the herd called allomothers.  Babies wean after 6 to 18 months but may nurse up to 6 years.
Slit Ear and her Calf 

Gazing into the eye of an elephant, you get a sense of how intelligent they are.  I wondered what she was thinking.  It's hard to believe that elephants are poached for their ivory.  When I think that this mother who so lovingly cares for her baby and is a member of a family can be killed just so someone can have a trinket made out of ivory, it's makes me angry.  When will human compassion and willingness to share this planet with other beings outweigh our greed and self importance?   

Eye of an Elephant

After about 45 minutes the herd disappeared back into the bush.  Two male Springbok were seriously sparring.  One was actually lifted off the ground by the other and landed on the ground with his leg caught in the victor's horns!

Springbok Males Sparring

It was time to return to camp before more elephants showed up at the waterhole.  We'll see what secrets the elephants will reveal in the days ahead.

We hope all is well back home.
Peggy and Marc

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