Why we just LOVE elephants...We can't imagine an Africa without elephants. Can you?
There’s no denying that elephants are probably our favourite animal here at Nyala Safari Lodge and Nyala Sands. There’s just something about these incredibly intelligent beasts that endears them to us, and just sitting and watching them reveals so much about their nature, whether it’s a lone bull visiting the grounds of the lodge or a breeding herd spotted on one of our game drives.
Elephant society is intricate and special and in some ways very similar to ours. Mothers, daughters and related cows stay in the family unit their whole life while the boys are pushed out as soon as they near sexual maturity.
They then form bachelor groups with older, wiser bulls as their mentors. When the bulls are fully grown they move off to spend most of the rest of their life as loners, with the more dominant bulls often shadowing breeding herds and mating with receptive females.
African elephants can live to the ripe old age of 65, and go through six sets of teeth in their life – as the molars wear down through use they are gradually replaced by the next set. Elephants inevitably die when their last set of teeth wear out, literally starving to death as they can no longer eat anything but soft grass, which is not enough to sustain them.
You’ll see that elephants eat most of the time. This is because their digestive systems are not too great and they only absorb around 40% of what they eat, meaning they literally eat to live, and live to eat! They will consume vast amounts of vegetable matter from tree bark and foliage to grasses and fruits, and everything in between.
They are incredibly powerful and are known to push down trees in order to get to the most tender foliage.
The elephant’s trunk is an amazing piece of equipment, kitted out with thousands of sets of muscles and the ability to fell a tree, knock other animals off their feet or gently caress a baby or family member and pluck a single blade of grass. Both African elephant cows and bulls have tusks (unlike their cousins, the Asian elephant, where only the bulls have tusks) and like us they are either left or right “handed” – wearing down one or the other tusk much more on the side they favour. The tusks themselves are teeth which never stop growing. Sadly, they are the elephants’ “achilles heel” because these teeth are highly prized as ivory, and are the cause of their numbers being decimated through poaching. We are currently losing an African elephant every 15 minutes – that’s 100 every day. We can’t imagine an Africa without elephants. Can you?