September 30th of 2021

©Photography byAngela Riley

African elephants are very fascinating creatures. They are known as a keystone species, which means that they play a very important role in the healthy functioning of whole ecosystems. When elephants push over trees, be it when the bulls are in musth or they’re just trying to reach the juicy goodness at the top of the trees, they are contributing to controlling the tree populations. The fallen trees then help with preventing soil erosion, providing food and shelter for other animals, and bringing nutrients back to the soil for new life to grow.

Elephants are also extremely social animals. The females live in herds with their relatives made up of sisters, mothers, aunties and the youngsters. The males will leave the herd when they are older and will go off on their own and find other bulls to live with.

Their social structure is very important for the insurance of the species survival. Because of their enormous size, they can cause severe damage to themselves and the environment around them. So the herd focusses a lot on teaching their young. The youngsters get taught migratory routes, places to find food and water, and other vital information that has been passed down from many generations. The herd is led by a Matriarch which is the female with the broadest knowledge, used to lead her herd to food and water during the changing seasons, and when times are tough. 

Elephants communicate with each other through their body language and vocally. Elephants trumpet and scream when excited or angry and use low rumbles to communicate, sometimes so low that humans can't hear the sound frequencies. To tell when an elephant is relaxed or stressed, the tail can give it away. A stressed elephant will have a stiff tail that sticks upwards, and when it is relaxed, the tail will hang down and slightly sway. 

Elephants are constantly on the move and can travel great distances. They are capable of covering more than 80km a day! Elephants visit Isambane camp quite often during their day long treks which gives us the opportunity to really observe and get to know these remarkable animals. 

Angela Riley