While enjoying a Kruger Park safari with Royal Safaris, guests will almost certainly see an elephant or 6. The Southern Kruger is home to a massive number of elephants and you can imagine just how hard they are to miss!
Once driven almost to extinction on the African continent, the elephant population has grown from a mere 120 in 1920 to about 10 000 to date. Through a huge conservation effort, the Addo Elephant Park and Kruger National Park now protect large herds which span massive areas across both parks.
About the Elephant
The elephant is the world’s largest land mammal and can weigh up to 7 tons and reach a height at the shoulder of 3.3 meters. The tusks of the older bulls can weigh up to 60kgs each. Some of the older elephants have had tusks that weigh up to 90kgs. An elephants tusks, which are actually their upper incisors, keep growing throughout their lives. For the males, their tusks are not only used to obtain food but are also used to fight or in self-defence. These majestic animals can live up to an age of 70 years.
The elephant has a modified nose in the form of a trunk and this appendage has about 50 000 muscles in it. At the very tip of its truck, it has extremely sensitive finger like appendages that enable the elephant to pick a flower, pull out grass and even take a thorn from their feet. Its trunk is also capable of finding water, above or below ground. They have an inch of thick, sensitive skin and they love to swim and after swimming, they will throw sand or mud on their bodies that acts as a sunscreen.
Elephants are herbivores and feed on about 300kgs of grass or bark in a day. All that eating makes them thirsty and they can drink up to 200 litres of water in a single session. That results in a heap of dung being deposited every 15 minutes.
Due to their 22 month gestation period, elephants only have one calf every 3 or 4 years. Calves are only weaned after 2 years. Females normally stay in the herd while the males leave at about 14 years when they are expelled from the herd and join other male groups. Males generally breed until they are well into their twenties. The elephant is a very caring mother and should a calf become orphaned, another nursing mother will suckle the orphan. Elephant herds are always lead by an older female.
The Emotions of an Elephant
Elephants are capable of extreme emotion and even seem to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. They have been seen grieving at the body of a dead elephant of their herd and even cover the carcass the flowers or leaves. When they come across an elephant carcass they are known to spend time visiting, and gently touching the bones with their trunks.
In general elephants are peace loving animals.
Females may show aggression when they have calves with them and males in must can be exceptionally aggressive. A sick, injured or harassed elephant may also show aggression. Generally, an elephant will first do a mock charge in an attempt to ward of the threat. They do this by standing tall and facing the threat with their ears spread wide. Sometimes they shake their head and swing their trunks. They may even storm at the threat and then stop before reaching the threat. It’s best to then move away slowly as an elephant is quite capable of killing its threat and have been known to overturn cars with ease.