Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tanzania: Cranky Elephants

I'm sure anyone who's visited an African game park might have seen a similar thing but, the other day, we were interested to observe very different behaviour patterns from two groups of elephant sighted in Lake Manyara's National Park near Arusha, Tanzania. Viewing elephants in their natural environment gives you a great appreciation of their sensitivities and habits - somthing you clearly don't see if they are in a zoo, even a large one like Western Plains at Dubbo. The first group we met were emerging from the forest at the base of the Manyara escarpment. The youngish lead male was not happy and kept moving towards the vehicle in front of us in quite a threatening manner. Because the elephant was standing in the middle of the road the 4WD couldn't move past so it had to back up, and we did the same. Several times. The elephant munched vegetation, but it was clear he wasn't happy. Most of it was spat out or thrown over his head, reminding me of a grumpy kid that didn't get his own way. Toby, of course, noted that the lead elephant was suffering from really bad wind. He reckoned the smell was so bad that when it let fly, it all but stalled the Toyota. He expended a lot of energy challending the vehicles so we backed up some more. After 20 mins of this threatening behaviour, we got past. The other two elephants that followed were just as cranky. Our guide thought that as they were lone males (therefore not belong to any specific breeding group) they might have been fighting in the bush and were venting their elephant-sized spleens (and bowels) on our vehicles.

We spent a fun, but hot, nine hours driving to the hot springs 36km to the south (weird thing to do in 32+ temperatures?) and on the way back, when everyone in the 4WD vehicles were now hot and cranky, we came upon another group of elephants, including some females with several young. As they were carefully crossing the road I got this great shot of four elephants drinking from a roadside pool. Even though they passed within inches of the vehicles, they appeared quite serene and not worried by our presence.
It was an interesting contrast to the cranky trio seen earlier and a great way to finish off our last game drive...

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