“We have a constant thirst for joy that can only be quenched with play. Water is the ultimate toy”- Heinrich van den Berg
Elephants have to be one of my most favourite animals to watch. Their great size, the numbers they move in, their seeming intelligence and their interactions with one another means that there is never a dull moment with them. And for me there is nothing better than watching these animals around water. Following on from James’ thoughts in yesterday’s blog, it is always fascinating to see how much fun these animals seem to have when they reach water. Not only do they gulp down huge quantities of it (sometimes as much as 140 litres in a day) as well as bathe in it to cool themselves down; it seems to me that it also gives them new-found energy, which can result in hours of play.
We have been documenting our attempts to capture camera trap photographs of the elusive otter, and in so doing, have managed to inadvertently capture all sorts of other creatures as they go about their business. This time we were granted a glimpse into the lives of an elephant herd that descended on the Sand River and had a seemingly fabulous time. Have a look at the series below to see what it is that elephants get up to when no one is watching.
Water drips from the recently wetted body of an elephant bull. It seems this elephant has already had a drink and a swim and is now satisfying his hunger on vegetation growing along the banks of the Sand River.
The elephants have spread out across the river and whilst drinking, an unsuspecting individual creates a beautifully framed photograph of the rest of the herd on the opposite bank.
The wrinkly leg of an elephant closes in on the camera trap.
At first glance this photograph may look like it was taken at night. Look more closely though and you will be able to see the distinctive wrinkles of an elephant’s leg that has completely filled the frame of the camera.
An elephant playfully chases a hadeda ibis. At first it is hard to decipher what the young bull was chasing but look closely at the left-hand side of the screen and you will see the small, grey shape beginning to move away. I am unsure why elephants chase animals so much smaller than themselves when these animals pose absolutely no threat but this may just be an indication of the elephant’s playful mood.
Two elephant bulls have a wrestling match on the banks of the Sand River. Although this is often behaviour that helps to establish dominance between bulls, it seems to occur more frequently when these animals are around water and have possibly been re-energised by their cooling bath.
If you look carefully, you can actually see where water droplets are flying from the elephants ears and trunks as they jostle.
This is my favourite of the three photographs as you see the sand kicking off the elephants foot, as he surges towards his opponent.
The elephants begin to move away from the river. In all likelihood they were heading off to feed, as they are required to eat about 5 percent of their body weight a day to maintain their bulk. For a six ton elephant bull, this equates to 300kg of vegetation every day.
Written by Amy Attenborough, Londolozi Ranger