Two visits to the Addo Elephant National Park, in December and again this month, tell the tale of drought. In this photograph elephants crowd around the Hapoor waterhole.
The veld around this waterhole is almost completely bare of vegetation and so it is not surprising to see dust devils such as this one nearby.
At this time the summer temperatures can rise to over 40°C, making everyone thirsty. It is no different in the wild, where this threesome of elephants were the forerunners of a larger herd making their way across the dusty veld to drink at Rooidam in the Addo Elephant National Park. The elephant on the right has earlier submerged itself in either this or another waterhole nearby – as the darker ‘tide mark’ on its body shows. The darkened trunks also indicate that all three have already tasted the water at least and the dark ‘socks’ on the left elephant indicates how shallow the water is on the edge.
A warthog is taking advantage of the lull in animal traffic to enjoy a quiet drink of water from the waterhole at Woodlands. The water is so calm that it might even be admiring its reflection in the water while it quenches it thirst. All the waterholes in the Addo Elephant National Park are supplied by boreholes. That might be a covered pump next to the warthog. You can clearly see the concrete base of this waterhole and elephant dung in the background.
Sometimes it is not water one needs, but mother’s milk. Certainly that is what this zebra foal wanted in the middle of the day. Note how fluffy its hair is and the loving gesture of the mother placing her chin on its rump – the closest she can come to what we would call a hug, perhaps.
Birds require sustenance too and this Greater Double-collared Sunbird settled down to a good drink of nectar at Jack’s Picnic Place, quite unperturbed at being photographed in action. It visited each flower in turn before moving on to the next cluster.
One always has to drive with care in areas where animals are free roaming. We have been doing that in our town for years as the Urban Herd of cattle – and now donkeys – has expanded. In a game reserve, careful driving at slow speeds is a must. You can never tell what might be crossing the road around a corner – or for how long you might have to wait.
Each time visitors thought there might be a break – these were not the first elephants to cross – more would appear from the bushes on the right of the picture.
Motorists had to wait patiently.
And just when they thought the coast was clear …
… another elephant appeared!
These elephants were heading across the road to drink and bathe in the Ghwarrie waterhole to the left of the pictures, whilst most of the visitors were waiting to observe an even large herd of elephants at Rooidam, from where we had just come.
This is a small family group of a larger herd of elephants cooling down at the Rooidam Waterhole in the Addo Elephant National Park. You can tell from the mud and splash marks that some of them had enjoyed some time either in or near the water. The elephants had been there for a while when this group gathered to move off. Spot the two calves amidst that forest of legs.
Here is a closer view of one of them.
The one on the left is hungry. For the first two or three years the calves are totally dependent on their mothers for feeding.
While this one waits patiently for a gap between the forest of legs.
You already know we have to be wary of the elephant in the room [an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about] and you may even have been advised to eat the elephant one bite at a time when dealing with a stressful situation or are facing a number of obstacles.
Let us take a much closer than usual look at elephants, starting with the face. This elephant has covered its face with mud, a form of protection against the sun as well as parasites:
Elephants have incredibly long eyelashes – up to 12cm long:
The large surface of their ears can help to keep the elephants cool:
While it is difficult for the average person to imagine an elephant sans tusks, elongated incisors, many elephants in the Addo Elephant National Park do not have them:
Elephants drink water through their trunks:
Their tails are hairy:
African elephants have wrinkled skin: