On the 17th of November I was driving the western boundary of Ntsiri Game Reserve in Greater Kruger with my two young daughters when I heard the loud distress trumpeting of elephants.
I could hear the direction of the sound and figured that they were around two kilometers away in a direction that we were heading in. The sun was already beating down and the temperature was already into the 30’s.
After driving for a few minutes we arrived at Zebra Pan and saw a group of large elephants bulls feeding on Mopane and crossing the road through the Mopane in front of us.
As we slowly moved closer we could see a breeding herd of elephant led by a large matriarch who, by her constant moving, was being agitated by the bulls.
We could then see that one of the particularly large bulls was in musth and no doubt the cause of all of the upset.
The matriarch was some distance away from the bulls and to our left when she gestured to the herd to follow her and physically kept circling them to lead them off away from the bulls.
It was then that we saw a sub adult which appeared to have a bad injury. I managed to get an image of the injured elephant as they moved into thick Mopane and couldn’t quite believe what we had seen.
We were all quite distressed to see the elephant had an open injury the size of a dinner plate at the top of her trunk, the nasal cavity area.
What is more is the injury appeared to be wet. The herd had clearly been drinking the shallow water at Zebra Pan and this is where the bulls had caught up with them.
We left the elephant and a short while later back at the HQ I was able to study the image and establish a few interesting facts. These facts were supported by a number of elephant experts throughout Africa that I subsequently sent the images to.
The first was that this was an injury that has healed for at least a few months. It was evident from the image that the elephant cannot draw water through the trunk and that the only way to drink is to place the curved part of the trunk under the water, allow a bit of water to flow into the submerged part of the trunk and to then lift the trunk to allow the flow down into the mouth. Zebra Pan is a shallow pan which only manages to catch water after rainfall, so it is quite possible that this elephant is being helped to drink.
What can be seen in the image though is that the water flowed out of the injury as the trunk was lifted to pour water into (we presume its a she) mouth and had come out of the trunk and wet the skin around the nasal cavity.
Dr. Markus Hofmeyr (Chief veterinarian for many years at SANPark’s), who I sent the image to, confirmed that (she) appeared to have not lost condition and was in reasonably good shape.
I have subsequently sent the images to a number of members in the APNR, and conservationist friend in Zimbabwe by the name of Garth Thompson who has sent the image to many elephant experts and no one has seen any injury quite like this.
We saw the same herd much later in the day a few kilometers from this point being harassed by the same bulls once again and heading towards the Timbavati.
We have not had any report of the injured animal being seen again. It will be interesting to see if (she) is able to survive. The adaptive nature of these animals and the help they get from their family members is quite remarkable.
ROGERS BIRD FACT
Nesting sites in your garden
Gardening with birds in mind has become a very popular trend in suburban gardens.
The one group of birds that suffers most in nesting site availability are the birds that nest in holes in trees. These include barbets, wood peckers, red throated wryneck, hoopoe’s, starlings and grey headed sparrows.
To encourage them to breed in your garden it is a good idea to put nesting logs in the bigger trees in the garden. Ideally these trees should be in an exclusion zone where pet and human activity is kept to a bare minimum. Nesting logs should be made out of harder woods to guarantee they survive the breeding season.
In some instances sisal logs are sold with this in mind. I personally believe they are unacceptable because some species, especially Crested Barbets, have the habit of continually pecking the wood out from under their eggs. This often means that by the time the chicks are half grown they fall out of the bottom of the nest and become a free meal for the family cat.
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