When the fence between the Sabi Sand Private Nature Reserve and the Kruger National Park was brought down in the early 1990’s, a completely different ecosystem was the result.
Animals within the Greater Kruger had access to thousands more acres of natural environment which had essentially been cut off for almost three decades.
Not all of them are transitory or renowned for covering large distances however, yet one species in particular which flourished with this landmark moment in conservation history was the Elephant.
Elephants are the only animals which can induce two emotional responses in me at the same time. To be in the presence in one of these giants evokes simultaneous feelings of awe and humility. None more so than the great tuskers, the most famous of which roamed the Greater Kruger Park during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
The names of Shawu, Mafunyane and Duke conjure up an emotional rollercoaster within one’s inner being. These magnificent creatures left their imprint on millions acres of untouched natural bushveld over the past few decades.
Today, this pedigree of elephant still exists, and like their predecessors, they are not that easy to find. I was fortunate enough to find myself in the presence of one of these tuskers once, and the encounter – at least for me – emphasises the psychological influence of the epitome of majesty..
The morning sun ignites the white pearls of dew on its perfectly sculpted ivory .
This monumental elephant approaches the vehicle; quiet, pristine and majestic. The presence of this animal leaves us awe-inspired. This elephant is no ordinary elephant, this elephant forms part of only a handful of magnificent, regal creatures that have walked this planet. A lineage of distinguished tuskers that has been etched in mythology and folklore.
He takes time to evaluate the vehicle and our presence in an environment he is totally at home in.
An elephant’s body language does not lie. They will show you if they are not happy. This tusker was exhibiting a calmness emanating from decades of experience. He knows that the vehicle does not represent any threat to him in this natural environment. The marula tree on the left hand side of our vehicle has a hypnotizing effect on the elephant and lures him towards its upper branches. With his trunk in the air, one can finally grasp the sheer immensity of this hulking pachyderm. He feeds, we are hushed.
He follows a predetermined pathway through a labyrinth of grasses and trees. This is a similar path he has followed his entire life, a path which will lead to all the necessities for survival.
We may have bestowed names upon these creatures, but in the wilderness, they are all just individuals which form part of the circle of life.
This same circle dictates the life of all the wondrous creatures which call Londolozi home. This circle can be tracked from the Mozambican border to the Drakensberg, where centuries-old elephant pathways still exist. To the human eye, imperceptible. To the great tuskers and elephants that have navigated this landscape for hundreds of years, as clear as an airport’s landing strip at night. We cannot even begin to describe their innate abilities and intelligence.
Hopefully, with the correct influences, the circle which dictated the life of the magnificent tuskers of southern Africa will continue to remain unbroken for many years to come.