African (Savanna) Elephant

It was World Elephant Day 2015, which was supported by around 65 wildlife organisations from across the world, that induced me to compile a ‘special photo collection’ for this magnificent beast.  Anyone who has an interest in wildlife knows that the elephant is currently under severe threat in the wild due to the continued escalation of poaching and habitat loss.  It’s abundantly clear that more has to be done to stop the resultant decline in their numbers, and that action must be taken now before it’s too late.  

 

I would hope that everybody who has a love of elephants has read the latest statistics and is appalled at what is happening.  I’m not in a position to write about what should be done to stop this atrocity, as any comments I might make would simply be from the heart without proper knowledge or full understanding of the situation.  I only know what I’ve read.  It’s certainly good that the current focus seems to be bringing some hope and, if all the latest ‘noises’ are to be believed, then maybe, just maybe, the current trend can be reversed.  There’s one thing though, that I can’t fathom, which is why the IUCN Red continues to classify the elephant as ‘vulnerable’ - the lowest of the three categories of ‘threatened’ species.  Surely it should be ‘endangered’ if not ‘critically endangered’.  Of course I appreciate that the official classification is based on set criteria, but when the results of field data and surveys are showing such distressing and frightening reduction in numbers, then surely raising the elephant’s conservation threat level accordingly would heighten awareness.

 

Elephants are without doubt one of the most enjoyable animals to watch in the wild.  They are very adaptable animals that live in a wide variety of habitats and, as such, even from our couple of visits to Tanzania, my wife and I have had opportunities of photographing them in so many different environments.  We’ve encountered them in thick vegetation at the side of the tracks, out on the open savanna, in the dry (sand) riverbeds, within the forest around the lake in Selous and even in the lake itself.  

 

The females live together in family groups led by the oldest, known as the matriarch. These groups comprise several adult females and their offspring.  Some of these groups can include up to fifty elephants, but the normal herd size is more likely to be nine to eleven animals in total.  The males will leave the family group at puberty, usually when they are between ten and twelve years old.  Whilst these males will form separate bachelor groups, they will also spend much of their life wandering alone.  They will begin competing reproductively at around 25 years old, but it’s usually the larger bulls over 35 years old that will dominate.  

 

One of the most entertaining actions to watch is the ‘mock charge’, which is something we’ve experienced on a number of occasions.  Most of the time it’s just that, a ‘mock charge’, with the individual displaying a lot of bravado – lots of trumpeting, ear-waving, foot-slapping and dust-throwing antics designed to ward off a potential threat.  You see the youngsters do it and you admire their boldness.  But, when you witness a full-grown adult doing it at close quarters, you quickly appreciate their size and power, and the damage they could do if the charge was for real.  This is definitely one of the adrenaline-pumping experiences that you go on safari for.     

 

I hope that this small collection of photos does this incredible animal justice. 

 

[u]Footnote[/u] : from what I’ve read I believe there’s still some debate regarding the naming and true classification of the African Elephant.  Some sources say there are two distinct species – the Savanna Elephant ([i]Loxodonta africana[/i]) and the smaller Forest Elephant ([i]Loxodonta cyclotis[/i]), whereas others suggest an alternative name of Bush Elephant with the above as sub-species.  Most of the specialist African animal books refer to the species we’ve seen in Tanzania as simply the African Elephant or Savanna Elephant, hence my title.

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