Elephants in the dry season

Pamushana · September 2019
By Tyme Mutema
Field Guide

We left the lodge at the crack of dawn and thought we were the early birds, but other birds were already out there scouting about. As is the norm I announced my call sign over the radio, and got a response from Jenny telling me about the presence of a breeding herd of elephants on the Pamushana Access Road. On hearing this

I decided it should be our first port of call and it took less than 20 minutes to get there. Fortunately the elephants were still in the area and I put the Land Cruiser to good use until we were rewarded with a spectacular sight of elephants of all sizes, more than 30 of them in glorious sunrise light on the side of the road.

During this time of the year as we are in the dryer months food becomes very scarce. These gigantic species have to contend with the little resources available for them to survive since it’s so dry. A young bull pushed a small mopane tree over and the loud cracking sound was like a gun firing! Many members of the herd headed to the fallen tree and they all shared what was available.

Elephants fascinate me in behaviour as they make sure that the little ones are very much protected, even during these trying times when food is scarce. As they came to the food source the older ones arranged themselves on the outer areas with the young in the middle, allowing the little ones to share the leaves too. We stayed with them as they fed and searched for food, which included watching them pick sticks from bushes and strip the bark off them to eat. It was such a pleasure to observe them closely, and to notice details such as the earliest bird of all – a fork-tailed drongo that would perch on a branch nearby and hawk any insects that the elephants flushed out.

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