Elephants in camp
In the first blog I wrote about a herd of elephants in the middle of the Okavango Delta. This where females with calves and at the end of that trip we saw an elephant bull. However, when the night had fallen this bull entered the kwapa training camp! In this blog I will tell the exciting story about this elephants in camp.
The first night
The night I arrived at Kwapa training camp, Guide trainer Phillip Hauck told us to watch out! The elephant bull was walking around and it was probably on the other side of the kitchen area. Luckily for most people this was far away from their tents. It had been a long journey and I was really looking forward to a good night of sleep.
After I said goodnight to everyone, I walked to my tent on the other side of camp. And there, at the end, I heard rustling. So I turned my torch on and shined up to the path. Not to high because elephants don’t like the sharp light in their eyes, as we humans don’t like that either. I turned into the perspective of the animal like a real trial guide. Slowly I turned up my torch: a glistening eye, a large mass of gray and two luminous tusks… A huge elephant stood in front of my tent! I figured it was time to turn around, because it was impossible to read the bull in the dark.
I went back to the campfire and asked someone to walk with. And yes there was Grant. When I asked him to come with me he said; “of course, no problem”, like a real bushman with a lot of bush skills. We walked back to my tent with a better torch that we used to shine up to the elephant. This light beam was bigger, so the elephant would not stare in the bright light. Now we could read him. To comfort him we started to talk, slow and with a low voice: “hi gay, how are you this evening, isn’t it time to leave?” He was struggling and he clearly did not intend to leave any time soon.
Time for a new approach. We went through the bushes to the other side of the tent. It worked! We heared the elephant moving. It moved just far enough for us to reach the entrance of my tent. Finally I could catch up some sleep and within a few minutes I had fallen asleep. With the elephant probably still hanging around my tent eating his nightly snack in the bushes.
The next day, he left the camp and we found him with another male back in the riverbed of the Kwapa river.
Bulls in the camp
A few days later some people were chatting in the class tent. They were telling stories about great sightseeing’s in the Okavango Delta and wildlife and right at that moment Peter spotted elephants in the distance. Again we didn’t hear it approaching! When we looked better we saw that it were our friends from the other day: the two bulls from the riverbed.
Peter told us that the elephants probably were being attracted by the African mangosteen (Garcinia livingstonei). In Kwapa camp are a few of these trees and they are huge! At this moment they have a lot of fruits and green leaves, which attract a lot of hungry animals.
The bulls came slowly closer and were looking for something to eat. With their trunk up in the sky they grabbed branches with a lot of leaves. While the elephants do so, a giant swarm of bats flied out of these branches! Only in the African bush..
The Peters’s epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus crypturus) also eats mangosteen fruits. Only they feed by night. They can fly in the sunlight, but they don’t like it. The bats made themselves comfortable in the ridge of the tent right above us. Other animals like the Smith’s bush squeals (Paraxerus cepapi), take the seeds out of the fruits and bring them to a safe place. They hide their booty for other animals. Maybe also for the Elephants
In the upper parts of the tree live all kinds of birds like Meyer’s parrots (Poicephalus meyeri) and even Vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops)! The elephants attract also other animals. Like Chacma baboons (Papio cynocephalus) and de red-billed spurfowl (Pternistis adspersus). The latter stays close to the elephants. When the elephant moves, the insects fly away, so the birds can easily grab them.
Part of the ecosystem
The elephants are a very important part of the ecosystem. They change the landscape: they make water howls and bring trees down. And the Kwapa camp is part of that system. All kinds of animals, both the big ones and the small ones, live together right in our camp!
This particular day the elephants stayed in the camp for two hours. They came close to the tent again, but after we talked to them they left peacefully. Even guiding course student Sophie, who once had a bad experience with an elephant, loved this moment. This time she had a pleasant moment with the animals. This kind of experiences help students in the Nature Guiding Course a lot! Learning how to approach elephants safely and to see the beauty
of the Okavango Delta ecosystem.