The African Elephant
The Elephant is one of the reasons why I like to go to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe. They are a big attraction in the park and you will bump into them each day.
You need to understand that each Elephant is unique. Each behave differently and when you travel across African you will recognize different behavior in different areas. You always have to try and read their behavior to understand if you must stop or if they are fine with you approaching them.
During my latest trip to Africa I could witness how differently the Elephants behave in Mana Pools National Park and Kafue National Park. In Mana Pools we could sit close to them, but in Kafue they reacted as soon as they could smell us. It was impossible to approach an Elephant in Kafue as they moved clear of us. It is sadly because of the human wildlife conflict that has been present in the area for years. They don’t trust humans and I fully understand them.
The status of the Elephant population in Zambia and Zimbabwe
Since the 1960s Zambia has lost over 90% of their Elephant population. Still some good news came out in 2016 when the count indicated a slight increase in the population. Sadly, it also found an area where poachers more or less had wiped out the Elephant population completely.
In the Zambezi Valley the population has declined drastically since 2001. The decrease has been less in the middle Zambezi Valley, where you find Mana Pools and Lower Zambezi.
Zimparks contradict these figures, for the whole of Zimbabwe, claiming their share of Elephants have ballooned out of proportion. It is hard to say if this is true or not, but I expect the figures presented about the Zambezi Valley to be fairly accurate.
To my knowledge there is a viable Elephant population in the area and that the pressure from poachers isn’t as great as in East Africa. Still they poach and often target the oldest, wisest animals as they have the most valuable tusks. This is bothersome in many ways and one of the biggest issues is that their knowledge is lost. You have to understand that the oldest members of an Elephant herd are the teachers. Remove them and chaos will commence as youth can’t lead. They need their elders to pass on their knowledge excatly like humans did before we could write.
The big males in Mana Pools
I was fortunate enough to meet three collared males in Mana Pools last september.
Boswell is the most known and that is easy to understand if you ever have been in his presence. He was collared prior to my first visit in 2014 and I can remember the outcry in the photo communities then as they though he would become less photogenic/attractive.
Yes, a collar is not like a beautiful ring on the finger of a bride. Still it is as important as it gives researchers and park rangers the possibility to collect data and hopefully protect these beautiful and important individuals. The collars add a sort of protection and that is more important to me than a collarless Elephant that looks nice in the photo.
During out stay in 2017 we also met Fred Astaire and Tusker. I can’t remember if I have met them before. Both wore collars and I think the aim is to collar up to 14 individuals that are found to be important. At the moment I have only heard of four being collared and that it is dependable upon available funds.
Video: Tusker, Mana Pools National Park
If you want to know more about the Elephant situation in the Zambezi Valley then have a look at The Zambezi Elephant Fund. They are trying to address the problems at hand in Mana Pools National Park.
If you are interested in more info about Elephants and how to get involved then have a look at Save the Elephant. They work globally with hope of securing a future for the Elephant.