The beast from the east

Kruger National Park | November 2016

On one of our early morning drives we decided to head up to the very northern parts of the concession in hope of adding a few new species to our list. The morning started off a little overcast and cloudy, so we really wanted to make the most of the cooler weather and have an extended drive. Everything went pretty much to plan with some phenomenal sightings of a female cheetah and cubs, members of the Mountain Pride and large amounts of general game along the way. After stopping for our morning coffee break and leg-stretch the weather started to quickly warm up and our cool morning was suddenly a lot warmer than everyone was hoping for. On planning our route back home, Christoff, our tracker said he had a really good feeling for elephants on the way back to the lodge, noting that with it getting so hot, water would quickly become a necessity. He suggested that we take a very specific route back to camp in hope of one or more sightings of elephant before brunch.

We found two very large elephant bulls trailing a small breeding herd, this most often happens when a female is in oestrus and the males are present to establish who is the dominant bull at the time and, in turn, who gets to mate. At first we expected a bit of interaction between the two males until one of the bulls turned to face us showing off his magnificent set of tusks. The large bull then proceeded to give us a show pushing over a large knob-thorn tree (Acacia nigrescens), which in comparison to him just looks minute in size, almost in a display to show off his dominance/strength to the other bull who very quickly backed down.

Unfortunately large tuskers like this are not a common occurrence these days and it’s attributed to the ivory poaching that happened in the past. The poachers targeted the largest animals possible and as a result the genes of big tusked elephants like this are few and far between. I knew it was a special sighting when Christoff asked if he can have his photograph taken with the animal to show his family and friends!