Monday, May 3, 2010

Etosha - Elephants

On my recent one-day trip to Namibia's Etosha National Park I saw no elephants, which was not surprising because during the rainy season they tend to migrate away from the established waterholes to areas where the vegetation is less under pressure.

On my second visit though, I felt more hopeful of spotting some when we came upon fresh dung lying on the road:

A few minutes later we encountered this lone bull who proceeded to a wash himself in a mud pool:

An elephant's trunk is extremely versatile, it's used for plucking food and sucking up water which is transferred to the mouth or sprayed over the body for cooling.

He obligingly sat down in the mud and posed for a few seconds:

Migratory herds probably inhabited this area for thousands of years but by 1881, after the arrival of Europeans and modern firearms, there were no elephant left in Etosha.

In 1954 small numbers started making their way back into the park.

During the 70s, due to the creation of additional water points in the park to attract them and the pressure of expanding human settlements outside the park, elephants started migrating back into Etosha.

Today, there are so many that the occasional controlled culling is necessary, elephants being second only to man in their ability to destroy and alter the environment.

A few minutes after leaving our bathing beauty above, we came upon a herd of about 40 animals:

They were mainly females and their offspring - it's beautiful to watch how the smallest babes are protected and herded by the adults.

Etosha's elephants are the largest in Africa but their tusks are also the smallest.

They crossed the road a short distance ahead of us:

The driver of the car closest to where they were crossing had his vehicle in reverse gear, ready to make a quick getaway.

I don't blame him for being nervous because these jumbos can look really menacing when they're close and stare at you with flapping ears, like this group who stopped to look at his car, though in this case they were being curious rather than aggressive:

I've never heard of an elephant attacking a car - I'm not saying it hasn't happened - but, in my experience it's best to just sit quietly, starting or revving a car's engine just seems to make them more agitated, especially when there are young babes in the herd.

After this large group, we saw only two solitary males for the rest of our three-day stay in the Pans, this nice clean fellow below:

... and a bull who passed so close I was able to get a shot of his long eyelashes:

Well, after the first sightings, my visit to the pans was partially satisfying - I had seen the magnificent elephant, but no big cats, ... yet.

Amy Schoeman - Notes On Nature
RHN Smithers - Land Mammals Of South Africa

Related Posts:
Etosha National Park - A Timeless Experience



  1. These are wonderful photos. I am soooo jealous, I love the African wildlife. We had a large bull who had second thoughts about us on our overland trip. My Dad reversed faster than I thought possible with the bull trotting down the road towards us. I think it was only a warning but.... My mother complained bitterly at my Dad as she said she did not get a photo as he reversed too quickly!!! LOL Diane

  2. Hehehe Diane - I have empathy with your mother's complaint - but on the other hand, there's nothing that loosens the bowels like a bull elephant bearing down on you ...

    ... thanks for sharing the memory ...

  3. Beautiful pics! Elephants are such incredible creatures. I was watching a documentary last night (actually a collection of David Attenborough's "best clips") and there was an incredible feature about a herd of elephants who go into special caves at night to lick salt. Amazing!

    Fingers crossed for some big cats for you!

  4. Ah! ... thanks Kirsty ... the big cats story will come later ... :) ...

    ... I just love the way that the adult females and even the younger juveniles protect the babies from danger by crowding around them and guiding them with their trunks ...

  5. WOW!! such awesome images!!!!!

    Gena D
    Thinking Aloud

  6. Thanks Gena ... being an accomplished photographer and so close you should seriously consider visiting Namibia ... I'm sure you'll go crazy capturing images ... but you'll need a few weeks, or more than one visit ...

  7. Those are fabulous photos of the elephant. You certainly did get close...just love that one of the elephant eyelashes. Such detail. I also love to see the baby elephants with their moms.

  8. Thanks Joyful - yes, he was pretty close - but I wonder about the wet mark on his face, ... one of my references says that they don't have tear-ducts so when they 'weep' it just runs down their faces ... I wonder if that could be tears?

  9. These photos are magnificent - you should have some of them framed ! It's great that you managed to get some close-up shots - wow, those eyelashes are soooo long !

  10. Thanks Lynda - yeah, I'm sure some ladies would kill for eyelashes like that ... :) ... I love Hornbills too, they have the most beautiful lashes ...

  11. The wet mark is intriguing. It seems a little misplaced to be tears though.

  12. You got some wonderful shots. Such long eye lashes, you must have been very close.

  13. Graham FYI I posted a link of this post on Facebook (my page).....

  14. Wow! Thank you Gena - I appreciate it