An elephant cow passed away just south of the Londolozi Camps in mid 2019 from natural causes.
Once a wildlife veterinarian from the Sabi Sand Game Reserve had established that the carcass would not cause scavengers any harm from disease, it was moved away from the camp to mitigate against the foul smell that would follow in the weeks to come.
Amazingly, I witnessed a whole parade of elephants following the scent of the carcass right from outside camp soon after the death. The herd was led by the oldest female – the matriarch. Every single elephant reached their trunk softly to the white sandy track, analysing the scent left behind. Their heads were held low and their massive ears slightly outward. A cloud of pale dust was kicked up around them, creating an incredibly mystical feel about them. It was almost as if they were mourning the loss, but it is impossible to decipher what emotions were being experienced.
There is a widespread belief that elephants will mourn the loss of other elephants. Many people have reported seeing elephants investigating bones of their own species through touching, sniffing and kicking remains about – sometimes for seemingly long periods of time. For such large and intelligent creatures with phenomenal memories and a sense of self, this is not too farfetched.
The remains of the elephant cow that I spoke of earlier were quite quickly consumed by a wide variety of animals from jackal, hyena and lion down to vultures and eventually insects. What remained fairly intact nearby is the massive skull. It somehow made its way to the edge of a small waterhole. The odd ranger and tracker has turned it over during an explanation of events to guests but this does not account for the 200 odd yards that it has been moved in total. Each time we drive past it, it seems to move position, again and again. Even now with no guests around, it has been moved.
So, we decided to put up a trail camera to get the evidence we are looking for.
Who has been moving the skull?
There were no other images or videos on the trail camera other than us retrieving it. Thus we are left with our question unanswered: who or what is responsible for moving it?
Based on these images, one can not rule out the male lion. Unlikely though.
We will have to put the camera back up again to gather more evidence.
The mystery remains…