There is something magical about elephants. Many people share this sentiment and I am certainly one them. The sheer size of these majestic animals is enough but the manner in which they go about their daily lives adds to their mystique.
So, when my guests and I came across a herd of at least fifty elephants one morning, we knew we were in for a treat.
We have been seeing quite a few herds moving through the reserve of late and occasionally they amalgamate into abnormally large groups. The reasons for these large congregations vary, however the main reason is usually that the elephants are gathering around a specific resource.
In this case, the resource was the lush vegetation near the banks of the Sand River as well as the nearby crests dotted with marula trees. Many of the older females of the various herds will recognise each other, and these gatherings almost serve as reunions in a way. After some time, the large ‘super herd’ will split back into smaller family groups and each group will go off in a different direction. This ‘super herd’ in particular was at least fifty strong and we watched as one by one, more elephants emerged from the thicket.
When a large herd of elephants moves through an area, they leave all sorts of signs of their presence. From broken tree branches to tons of dung, an astute observer will be able to tell that many elephants have been around. These signs also attract the attention of big bull elephants who will move into the breeding herds to inspect whether or not any of the females are ready to mate. The large bulls will dominate the space and will not tolerate younger males attempting to mate with any of the females. As we watched the young males fighting we noticed a much larger shape looming in the distance. Not too long afterwards, the young males were eclipsed by a massive elephant bull who was trailing the herd in search of females.
The presence of the large bull didn’t seem to bother the females and they grazed contently while the young calves played at their feet. The open clearing seemed like a good feeding ground and the herd move slowly through the area on their way down to the river.
Eventually, the herd moved off and later that day they had already disbanded. The sighting, however, remained with me. Seeing these amazing animals in one of the last havens for them is something very special and long may we have the chance to see amazing elephants roaming free.