In awe of elephants

Pamushana | July 2018

We had an action-packed day, but the highlight was a breeding herd of about 30 elephants north of Sosigi Dam.

Ambling down the aisle of a cathedral mopane forest came an elephant, the sunlight throwing gold onto its grey hide. We stopped a good distance away, and the leader kept coming, followed by the rest of the herd. They approached within three metres of the vehicle’s bonnet, and then stood there considering their options. We daren’t have moved as the engine noise might have unsettled them, and there were tall trees flanking us.

They showed classic displacement behaviour which is when an animal has a conflict between two drives, such as the desire to approach an object, while at the same time being fearful of that object. They milled around in front of us, touching their faces with their trunks, lifting their forefeet, scenting the air and gently fanning their ears. Then they seemed to unanimously decide that the best thing to do was go off-road around us, and continue on their way.