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Feeding frenzies and horny elephants

A great day's gameviewing in Etosha

sunny 38 °C

Now based on the eastern side of the park we had the early mornings down pat. At dawn on the 9th, the day was already promising to be a hot one, but in the precious few cool hours from 6 - 10a.m the morning is full of promise of all sorts of animal encounters. Our first waterhole didn't yield anything interesting but shortly after on the main Halali Rd. we spotted the by now familiar professional photographers vehicle stopped up ahead. This could only mean one thing - there was something worth looking at! Sure enough we caught up and were astounded to see within a couple of metres of the road, about 20+jackals tearing at the remains of a very small baby elephant. On the periphery, three hyaena stood, obviously satiated with bloodied faces and full bellies. They continued to watch the jackals in their feeding frenzy for a short while before slinking off into the bush. Despite the legs and trunk of the body still being intact, the jackals preferred to tear at the little meat left on the torso and skull. It was a manic sight of snarling, snapping, hackles raised, tail wagging canines. We stayed for some time, taking some good photos and a short video. There was very little evidence to tell what had happened to the little elephant. There were no drag marks or signs of a violent end. We wondered if the baby ellie had been sick and weak and had been killed or died where we saw its body. There were adult elephant spoor in the close vicinity. It was intriguing and we threw around many possible scenarios like forensic detectives.
After half an hour we headed off to check the other waterholes and when we returned to the scene an hour later, the carcass was completely gone. There was absolutlely no sign that the body had ever been there. We surmised that perhaps the hyaena had returned and taken the carcass back into the bush.
After retreating during the heat of the day we returned to the park with a plan to check out Tsumcor waterhole as it was being visited by herds of thirsty elephants in the late afternoons. As we turned into the waterhole track we immediately saw the elephants, already there. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea, so about 5 or 6 cars and two large game viewing trucks had commandeered the best viewing spots. Nevertheless, we managed to find a space with a relatively clear view. It soon became apparent that we were looking at a quite famous little elephant herd led by matriach Donut and her daughter Knobnose. These elephants are the subject of an ongoing research project and were featured on a very poignant documentary we watched on Nat. Geo or Discovery channel (can't remember exact details now!) Donut is so called due to the large round hole in one ear and Knobnose due to the large warty growth on her trunk. We were really excited to see first hand these beautiful animals in the flesh! However it also became obvious that a very large bull elephant in must was behaving rather badly amongst the herd and making them quite nervous - especially as they had many very tiny babies with them. Rob was videoing a couple of younger males engaging in a playful tussle whilst Alex and I were keeping an eye on the big bull. Just as well we did because he suddenly decided that he wanted to get to the few cows who were directly behind our car about 30m away and he didn't particularly want to detour around us!!! Suddenly it was all ears flapping, head shaking and trumpeting and rapidly approaching elephant!! With more than a little alarm , mild panic and flying expletives we had to beat a very hasty retreat in seconds! After that heartstarter we watched for a little while longer until Donut decided that her family, having had their drink, were better off out of harms way and moved on out. As we did...chattering non-stop about our encounter with a mad, bad, horny elephant!

Posted by threedogs 18:35 Archived in Namibia Tagged animal

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