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Elephants On Ximuwu

No other animals have such a big impact on our daily life at Ximuwu as the elephants, you never have to ask yourself or they are there. The poop these giants (F4-M5.5 tons) leave behind is one of the first things everyone will notice. An adult elephant leaves on average 100 kgs of dung behind every day. As result of poor digestion most of the grasses, fruits, branches and roots come out undigested in their dung.

Be happy your dog doesn't leave this behind!

It is their job to spread their manure throughout the bush. Lots of birds and beetles feed of their poop.

Thorns, sticks, roots everything is consumed

With so much poop it isn't difficult to understand that elephants eat a lot as well, over 300 kgs of grasses, branches, roots and leaves are consumed daily and here is where the fun starts. Elephants in winter time don't like the dry grasses so much so they start eating parts of the trees. Not only do they pull over trees in the bush but often they follow our roads created for the game viewers and they start pulling over the trees next to these roads with as result that often we, neither or guests cannot enter our camp anymore and Marcel or Silias have to clear the trees with tractor or chainsaw.

Two dungsbeetles fighting over elephant dung, there is some similarity between this animal and the elephant. The elephant is the strongest mammal which can carry up to 7 tons but do not underestimate this dungbeetle who can pull over 1000 times his own bodyweight!!
A curious youngster says hello to Marcel and Monique

The fact that elephants love water, (they drink 200 liters per day) we found out the hard way. When we arrived here at Ximuwu 3 years ago the camp was not used often but there were water pipes running from the pump station about 1,5 km (1 mile) away to our camp and that was also feeding a drinking hole where the elephants like to drink. While filling that pond the elephants could hear the water streaming through the pipes so they got curious and started digging. A big elephant splash party was the result and we lost well over 60.000 liters of water because the valve of the pont did no longer close the water pipe. Another problem with elephants is that they seem to have a pretty good memory because a month later they did the same thing despite the pipe was dug in much deeper. So we created an even deeper hole and putted cement on top and that was the end of it. Or not, this time the elephants turned onto the other pipe that ran to our house, they managed to pull that pipe out of the ground over a distance of 10 meters. Something that is even hard with a tractor to do. So we had no other option to renew the whole pipe and put it in much deeper.

When you see them playing here it might be hard to believe but elephants can be grumpy as well, often when they just strolling around you hear these disturbed trumpeting sounds warning each other that he does not like one another is doing or they run per example into a sleeping pride of lions which they will most certainly chase away. Most of times elephants are friendly, quiet and relaxed when we approach them by game viewer but sometimes a reckless youngster likes showing off by fast approaching the vehicle, flapping his ears and raising his trunk. If this happens then sometimes, the matriarch without any reason starts to interfere as well and then all of a sudden this quiet sightseeing can turn into an adrenaline rush especially for those who never have seen a mature elephant very close to a car, believe me they are huge!

Youngsters are often the start of trouble

At our dam we have a "braai" place were we watch the animals coming to drink at sunset but our guests mostly felt uncomfortable in the dark as the sounds of animals in the bush can be a bit intimidating. Marcel and Monique found a solution, after days of hard work together with Silias our camp guard they created this beautiful boma made of thick wooden poles digged into the ground, from now on our guests would not have to fear animals coming from the back. The only thing they forgot was to consult the elephants, a couple of weeks later we noticed one afternoon this huge male elephant hanging around our dam, pulling trees out and so far nothing unusual until next morning. Marcel went out on his quad bike as he does every morning but this time he was back within minutes. Come and have look what this bastard did this time.... He did not left one pole in the ground

Our boma in better times

We do not always see elephants on Ximuwu, in times of drought they move back to the Kruger as the rainy season starts earlier there. They can walk great distances. 50km per day is not unusual. The groups we see often is one group of around 16 elephants and then there is always a small group of 3 bulls hanging around of which the largest one is pictured here above. A couple of times per year we are visited by a larger herds of around 50 animals, those you cannot mis.

Elephants have the longest pregnancy of all mammals, over 18 months and when it's calve is born it weighs 100kg. They are born with bad eyesight which gets better as they get a bit older but they recognise their extremely careful and protective mothers by touch, scent and sound.

Especially when it gets hot (well above 40 degrees Celsius in summer) they love to bath or they take a dustbath to cool down. Often you find them rubbing against a tree to get rid of the ticks

Dustbath

Their trunk is a great tool, this 2 meters long and 125 kg heavy miracle is used to breath, spray, smell, drink, hoover, eat, grap, snorkel and communicate. The trunk is a combination of upper lip and a nose can hold 10-12 liters of water and gives the elephant a reach of nearly 7 meters high. Despite the fact that the trunk is very strong it can also handle very gently like the hand of a human. He doesn't drink through his trunk, he sucks up the water with it and then bring it to his mouth.

This old bull has a collar to track the great distances these animals walk

At the picture above you see what happens when elephants pay a visit, they can have a devastating effect on vegetation. Despite the fact that their numbers have decreased from nearly a million elephants in 1970 to 400.000 today, there is hardly enough space for them.

Elephants in the Kruger National Park

On this continent where the human population is expected to rise from 1 billion people today to 2.5 billion people in 2050 it will become a huge challenge to give these giants the space they need

Will we leave them enough space?

Edited by Patrick Suverein on 5-11-2020

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patrick suverein
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