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African Landscapes from South Africa- Elephants
African Landscapes from South Africa: The Animal connection.
Situated on the Southern tip of the huge African continent is the Republic of South Africa. It enjoys an interesting history because of its important position on the shipping routes between Europe and the East and the discovery of diamonds and gold.
Today it is famous as a tourist destination with more that a hundred National Parks, Game Reserves and Nature Reserves. Some are run by the National Parks Board, some by Provincial Authorities and others privately. Some areas are national heritage sites and others simply places of beauty.
Cape Town, the Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg Mountains are just a few names that come to mind. For the young crowd Super Tubes at Jefferies Bay calls with the perfect wave. Adventure tourists can hike, climb, paddle, bicycle and run to their hearts content and then come back for more. The weather is great and the slogan “Sunny South Africa has long adorned the tourist bill boards.
At the head of reasons to visit South Africa are the animals. Allow me introduce you to just a few in this and the following articles:
The African Elephant.
It is called African to distinguish it from its smaller Asian cousins. It is the largest land animal and is found in many of the game reserves in South Africa. A visit to Kruger National Park, Addo Elephant Park and many other provincial and private reserves will guarantee sightings of these magnificent animals, often close to the road. An adult can reach a height of 4 meters and weigh over 7000 kilogram.
Elephants are gregarious and they feed, often in large herds, on a variety of plants and trees. They often break down branches and even trees to get to the higher leaves. An adult Elephant can eat up to 150 kilograms of food in a day and drink 40 liters of water. With the ban on trade in Ivory and the moratorium on culling the number of Elephants in South Africa has grown considerably in recent times.. Because of the amount of vegetation that they consume the vegetation in some wilderness areas is threatened because of this. As the Elephants feed every day and so often the vegetation does not have time to regenerate itself.
Elephants are very protective of their young and so it is advisable to stay well clear of herds with babies present. Otherwise Elephants feed right next to the road and can be approached quite close in motor cars for great photos.
If an Elephant feels that his/her space is being threatened a warning will be issued in lifting its trunk, waving ears and a “mock” charge. According to the experts if the Elephant is really serious in an attack it will hide its trunk by tucking it under its chin. The animal does not want its trunk injured as it uses it to eat and drink. Fortunately we have never had to test the truth of this, although we have often been given a friendly warning, even by a small one.
Elephants love water and will visit dams and river to drink and even to just cool down and play. In crossing a deep river an Elephant will use its trunk as a snorkel. They also seem to enjoy just wallowing in the mud if water is scarce. Watching a herd visiting a waterhole is simply amazing. They will approach a waterhole in a large herd with mothers protecting their young as they near the water.
Because of their size they are not often attacked by predators but sometimes Lions will attack infants if they can separate them from the herd. As Lions usually hunt at night Elephants need to be particularly vigilant when it is dark.Just recently we camped at one of our favorite campsites in the Addo Elephant park. During the night we heard a lot of noise from near the camp including Lions roaring and Elephants trumpeting. The next day we were told that the Lions had taken a small elephant during the night. One of the reasons I prefer to camp in the National Game Reserves is that you can hear the night noises in the wild. On a more recent visit to Addo we enjoyed the sound of Jackal in the night. Sitting around a fire in a campsite is one of my all time favorite African experiences.
At the same time seeing these giants of the wild at close quarters is one of the highlights of a visit to any Game Reserve.