April 2021

An extraordinary elephant 

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An extraordinary elephant 

We introduced you to Rhandzekile in last month’s journal, and here’s more news about her:

Rhandzekile, meaning ‘Loved’ in Shangaan, made an appearance east of Boulders Lodge during the month.

She is unique, because she has a massive hole in her forehead from where she does most of her breathing. Her abnormality is said to be from birth, however this hasn’t stopped her from living a normal life, raising a calf and moving through many areas of the Greater Kruger National Park. 

Her disposition has allowed us to observe her life in great detail, to see how she has adapted, formed close cohesion with her herd and opened up a new elephant story for many of us as field guides, trackers and our guests. 

Looking at her head, her obvious feature catches your eye first, but then you start to see other differences too. Her eyes are more slanted, pulling the skin inwards from the hole in her trunk and her eyes. She’s got deep folds below her ear holes pulling the skin from her eyes to her ears and there is also a permanent wet stain of mucus running down her trunk from the hole.

Rhandzekile’s condition is remarkably good, especially after this year’s exceptional rainfall where the grass and trees have been abundant, high in nutrients and water has been available all over. Feeding is no problem for her, however drinking is facilitated by sucking up enough water that doesn’t reach the hole in the trunk and then bending the trunk, lifting it up and spraying the water into her mouth. 

Although Rhandzekile and her herd have moved on for now, I’m sure we’ll bump into her again in the future.  

Quinton Paul Josop
By Quinton Paul Josop
Field Guide