Gentle giants

Sabi Sand · March 2019
By Joffers McCormick
Field Guide

We have been fortunate enough this year to receive sufficient rainfall over the wet season and, due to this, the bush has become a place of new life with the most incredible vibrant colours at every angle. The open clearings have become lush grasslands and the thickets have been blanketed by the greenery. One aspect that has really stood out over the last few weeks has been the influx of elephants into the area. We have been extremely privileged to see the large herds returning here.

Over the last few years we have not received much rainfall and the area is still recovering from one of the worst droughts experienced in the Sabi Sand region during the years of 2016 and 2017. That resulted in the large herds breaking up into smaller satellite herds. The herds did not have much option other than to be led by their leaders, the matriarchs, to better food and water sources. As a result of this we were not seeing such large herds and the biggest herds on average were of about 10 to 15 individuals.

Now that we have got the lush vegetation back, we are seeing herds of 50+ elephants! This is honestly one of the most incredible aspects to witness in the bush as they really are gentle giants. From the newborn calves running through the grasslands to the older stronger individuals pushing down large marula trees to allow for the entire family to have a feast, it really does produce some spectacular sightings for us and our guests.

One of the most fascinating aspects of these large herds is that they can actually be tough to find as they do not make a lot of noise as they walk through the bush – they are the “silent walkers”. Once they start feeding this all changes and they can be heard from quite some distance when one breaks a few branches for feeding or when you hear the crack of tusks as two bulls have a sparring session.

These gentle giants really are one of the most spectacular aspects of the bush. Without them there would be an overgrowth of vegetation, but if there were too many of them they would destroy multiple food sources for other species that roam the area. It is really great to see the bush balancing itself out once again over the years and completing the circle of life.

By Joffers McCormick
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