Smokey Still Smokin’ In Elephant Country

Crumple Ear family dusts at Kameeldoring. Photograph courtesy of O'Connell-Rodwell.

The wind is howling today in elephant country. Half way through the season and we’ve been lucky to have had only two such days. The wind is making it difficult to concentrate on data management, but after such an active day yesterday, it’s a necessity. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together is best done fresh.

The extremely dry year at Mushara waterhole, in the northeast corner of Etosha National Park, Namibia, means that family groups have broken up into small sub-family units, presumably because there isn’t enough to eat to support moving in larger groups. The water quality at Mushara this year also makes the trek up north less desirable.

We took a brief safari over to the neighboring waterhole, Kameeldoring, yesterday to see if any of our resident elephants were spending time over there. We arrived at the expansive clearing and large body of water to Crumpled Ear’s extended family of about 45 individuals, give or take a few young bulls stretching their wings of independence that were hanging about with some of the older bulls, Jay being one of them. Their leisurely stay meant we were able to get some great IDs on some of the older females–individuals we only see through night vision at Mushara when they sneak in during the wee hours a few times a season.

Almost everything that could happen in elephant country happened yesterday, and over the course of a few hours of observations, more than a hundred elephants had come and gone. At one point, I counted 92 individuals in view at one time.

Crumple Ear family dusts at Kameeldoring. Photograph courtesy of Caitlin O’Connell and Timothy Rodwell.

There were the typical dominance interactions between family groups, the Athletes barreling in to displace a small group of Crumpled Ear’s family from the source of —> Read More