Saturday, 1 November 2014

SATURDAY CRITTERS - Stand off with Elephants at Majete Game Park

Today I am taking you on a safari to the Majete Game Park and hopefully we will all fit into the transport.  Although we saw a lot of others animals that day (will show you more in a later post), I am showing you the herd of elephants we came upon very suddenly on the narrow road with no way out so we had to make a hasty retreat.  As most people know about Elephants I tried to find some interesting facts that people may not know.


Now this shot is the moment we realised that this Elephant was not for turning so we had to back away fast!  As Elephants can charge up to 25MPH, it was a very good decision!  So really this should be the final shot but I will show you now the sequence of shots up to that point and then at the end you can watch a video.  


The African Elephant is the largest land mammal.
Male - height 3.3m at shoulder weight up to 6000kg, (same as 10 small cars!)

Female - weight up to 4000kg. They can grow up to 4 m tall - the height of a double decker bus!


Both African and Asian Elephants have a pregnancy that approaches two years—22 months, to be exact. This is the longest gestation period for any land animal, and one of the longest for any animal on earth. Elephants produce one baby at a time, and the youngster weighs around 230 pounds at birth.




They are herbivores eating fruits, grasses, bark and roots.  They need to eat 136 kg a day. Their large thin ears, shaped a little like the continent of Africa, act as large radiators allow excess heat to escape.



Their trunk is actually an extension of their upper lip and nose breathing through two nostrils at the end of it.  It contains over 40,000 muscles, divided into as many as 150,000 individual units! Compare that to the human body, which contains a paltry 639 muscles, and you start to get an idea how intricate the appendage is.  



  With no bones in the trunk they can use it to such delicacy to be able to pick a blade of grass.  With it they can suck up 3 gallons of water in one go and spray it over themselves to keep cool.


African elephants move around in herds of females or “cows” with their calves.  Adult male “bulls”only join them during the mating season. They continue to grow throughout their lives which means that the biggest elephant in a herd is usually the oldest.



Their tusks are really extended teeth which also continue to grow.  During their lives they may have 6 sets of teeth but by the time they are 40 - 60 they don’t grow any new ones and so it is not uncommon for them to starve to death.  Indeed an “elephant graveyard” could be such a place where elephants go to look for softer vegetation to eat.  They use their tusks for a number of purposes such as digging up tree roots and stripping bark off trees to eat and digging holes to reach underground water sources.



African elephants are very important to the eco-system in which they live.  In fact the role they play is so important that they are known as a “keystone” species on which numerous other species rely.  Some plants need to be digested by an elephant before the seeds will germinate, including up to a third of tree species in their habitat.


Their large size and taste for roots leads to pathways through forests being cleared.  This allows sunlight into an otherwise dense and dark forest giving the opportunity for a wider variety of flora to grow which in turn encourages a wider variety of fauna.  These pathways  act as natural firebreaks.  Some of the ancient ones are so well established that they have been turned into roads!



Unlike their cousins the Asian elephant, African elephants aren't easily domesticated.  There are between 470,000- 690,000 African elephants which is down from 1.3 million in the 1970s, mainly due to poaching for ivory during the 1980s.


In 1989 there was an international ban on ivory although it is still sold illegally to markets in Africa and Asia.  Although the overall number of elephants in Africa has declined, certain populations are doing so well that they have had to be culled in order to maintain the habitat where they live. and due to human settlements and crops restricting the areas within which they can move.  This can bring them into conflict with humans, especially if they trample on their crops.  


The Massai people, however, live in harmony with them since their staple food is cows which they keep out in the open.



In parts of Africa elephants and people have not been getting on.  The elephants trample and eat farmers' food and people kill and hunt elephants to keep them away from their land, but for many farms there is now a solution - BEES!


How can one of the largest land mammals on earth be afraid of tiny bees?  Well, have you ever been stung by a wasp or a bee?  It hurts!  And elephants, who are famous for their good memory, never forget.  This discovery came after researchers in Africa noticed that elephants did not feed from trees that had bee hives in them.  Armed with this new knowledge a British biologist named Lucy King carried out tests to understand and document the elephants behaviour and reactions to the buzzing bees.


'Once stung, twice shy' is true for elephants too as they avoid bees, beehives and behave very well around them in order not to stir them up.  A solution to keep elephants away from farms became clear - the researchers attached beehives to fences that were usually bulldozed to the floor by hungry elephants.  Now, when elephants disturb the fence and try to push their way through they stir up hoards of angry bees and scarper quickly!


During a test this technique reduced the number elephant break-ins by a whopping 93% leaving both farmers and the elephants happier.  In the past, elephants and people have been fighting for space, with both struggling to find or grow food.  Farms are spreading and the elephants' habitat is getting smaller.  


Some African elephant species are endangered as the illegal trade in ivory (elephant tusks) and poaching continues, but this solution to the problem of sharing land will hopefully help improve elephant populations and get their relationships with humans buzzing.




Life-span: 60 years - more than 80 years in captivity.


  I hope you enjoyed this post and now for the video.  Listen to near the end of it when you may hear fear and apprehension from my granddaughter voice!

CLICK HERE to access the video if it does not appear below. 



Now were there some things you did not know about the African elephant?  Certainly there were for me.  If not, then I hope you enjoyed seeing these wonderful gentle giants.

I am linking this post to SATURDAY CRITTERS.

Thank you for visiting my blog and also to the people who leave kind comments.

51 comments:

  1. Wonderful shots of elephant herd. Very dignified.

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  2. Great photos!...and very interesting! I certainly did not know of their respect for bees....never would of guessed that.

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    1. Thank you for your visit and comment.. Neither did I know of Elephants were afraid of Bees.

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  3. Great photographs of elephants; must be dynamic to see with your own eyes! And thank you very much for the information about them. Especially gestation made me a bit surprised.
    Sending Lots of Love and Hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. HI thank you for your visit and comments. No I don't fancy giving birth to an Elephant!!!! Or even as a midwife delivering one!! Or being 22 months in labour either!!!!! Thank goodness I am a human.

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  4. Great shots. They are frightened of mice as well as bees.

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    1. HI Adrian Thanks for you comment. Yes It doesn't have to be a mouse -- dogs, cats, snakes or any animal that makes sudden movements by an elephant's feet can startle it. So rather than being afraid of the mouse itself, an elephant is most likely just surprised by its quick, frantic movements.

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  5. Gorgeous creatures. And the bee fear was certainly new to me. I do hope that they continue to survive - and indeed thrive.

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  6. Margaret what an awesome sight to see, the elephants in wild. It is one of my dream trips.. Great post, photos and video. Thank you for sharing your post with my critter party, enjoy your weekend!

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  7. Thanks for sharing these picture and all those informations about african elephant : it is such a important matter...

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  8. Beautiful pictures of the elephants, Margaret. They are such lovely animals. Have a lovely weekend x

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  9. They are wonderful animals, the best in the world. Who would think they were some trophy hunters. Love 'em.

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  10. Marvelous photos Margaret, both for the photos and for the information. I have always loved the elephant and knew some of these facts but not all. The bee fact fascinated me and I thoroughly enjoyed your video. Thank you so much!

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  11. One day I will get to this part of Africa - one day! Great set of pictures.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  12. Incredible range of information on the elephant. I did not know the tusks were actually extended teeth. And i thought their ears were for flapping to cool their body. Most interesting is the elephants fear of bees and their sting. I guess that's quite logical. Great post.

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    1. HI Gemma Thank you for your visit and comments. The African elephant uses its ears as signaling organs. Ears are also used to regulate body temperature and are used as a protective feature in the African elephant to ward off potential threats. Each elephants ear is unique and different to any other elephants ear. They are used just like fingerprints on a human as a type of identification. The ears serve several important functions in the elephant. When a threat is perceived by the elephant, the ears are spread wide on each side of the head, which produces a huge frontal area.

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  13. Hi Margaret. Great views of your encounter with the Elephants.

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  14. Beautiful photos of these handsome creatures........thanks for the info!

    Happy weekend!

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  15. Wonderful post Margaret, enjoyed reading about these incredible creatures and your photos are so real I felt the elephants were going to march right out of your post...

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    1. Hi Lynn believe me, when we first saw these Elephants they were quit close as they appeared round a corner! It was a fantastic experience and I am so glad I captured at least some of it to share with others. Have a great weekend.

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  16. Thanks for the nature lesson on elephants. Loved the photos too.

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    1. Thanks for your visit and comment. Since writing this post I have found out more interesting facts about Elephants but these I will write about in a future post when I am showing you a different herd from another Game Park.

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  17. Hi Tsuki. Eileen, EC, CT, DeniseVA, Bob, Frank, Stewart, Forest Dean,
    MANY THANKS FOR YOUR VISIT AND MANY COMMENTS. I am glad you all enjoyed this post and later on, there will be more Elephants from another Game Park.

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  18. That must have been very exciting to be there with wild elephants. They look enormous. I was impressed with the big one how close his feet are together when he walks. The closest experience I had was to feed them peanuts at the Wild Animal Park. It's unnerving having their trunk feeling for the peanut in your hand- and they slobber too.

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  19. Love your video Margaret and yes, i definitely heard that "lets GO" from your grandaughter. Lovely shots and how fascinating about the bees. Love these giant mammals!

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  20. i hope they can maintain a balance and still survive and even thrive. the bees were interesting.

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  21. Margaret, what a wonderful post. I will refer a friend of mine to it because she loves elephants. She will love it too.

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  22. Thanks for the info, Margaret. I'm a beeliever, now!
    ~

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  23. Incredible creatures aren't they? And you did a good job with the photos.

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  24. Richly beautiful and highly entertaining, with their crinkled wrinkles just longing to be hugged!

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  25. These were great to see. It actually got me excited about taking pictures of the animals at Animal Kingdom Lodge with my new camera. (The AKL is at Disney World).

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  26. Thank you Margaret for this wonderful post.
    Because of you I learned a lot of valuable information about African elephants.
    It was a wonderful trip to the safari.
    Again, thank you and best regards :)

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  27. Interesting information, partly unknown for me. But I have got news for you: elephants rarely have twins. If I remember well I saw in this in Kenia or Tanzania. I have to go searching for the picture. The guide told us that we were extremely lucky to see this.
    Greetings, Kees

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    1. HI Many thanks for your visit and comment. it is not news to me that about elephants twins. I say in this post that Elephants are born 1 baby at a time. In 2010, Thong-Kum and Thong-Tang are believed to be the world's first set of male twins, Elephant twins occur very rarely, and due to the nutritional needs placed on the mother, their survival rates are often low.
      Thailand's other pair of elephant twins, females Jim and Joom, were born in 1993, but one sadly died.
      In January 2005, twin elephants were born in Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa. They were the third twins to be born in the history of the park. Twin elephants were also born in Chitwan National Park, Nepal, in 2009. Again they were the third set to be born there in the history of Chitwan. Have a great weekend.

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  28. You must have had a ball with these elephants!
    A lovely post that reminds me of our safaris on the elephant's backs in Zimbabwe!
    They used to search our pockets for peanuts!! LOL!
    Great photos!
    Keep well!

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  29. They're magnificent animals. How interesting that bees will keep them away from the farms.

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  30. Loved this post so much Margaret.thank you. Suc amazing animals ... Tho of use I'd have shared your gd's apprehension in that situation. How amazing to see these in their natural habitat. And at least one bit of good news about the bees! There is hope!

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  31. Lots of interesting info Margaret, yes definitely give them a wide birth if they approach you.{:))

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  32. I love elephants! What a wonderful post, full of great photos. The information about the bees was really interesting.

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  33. That's pretty interesting information about the bees. I never heard that before.

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  34. I am a big fan of elephants. Very interesting info on them. Thanks for sharing!

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  35. magnificent creatures they are. wonderful images and video Margaret.

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  36. Thank you for the fascinating information and the great photos and video.

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  37. How wonderful to see and photograph them in the wild! Must have been a tad scary though as they were coming closer! Terrific photos, and I enjoyed the video.

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  38. Fascinating to see from a safe distance,but I wouldn't want to get in their way.

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  39. Fascinating!! I always loved seeing the elephants at our Toronto zoo, but now they've all been taken to a sanctuary, and I hope they're much happier there. How incredible to see that huge guy come walking up the road! No wonder your granddaughter urged you to get going :) Wendy x

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  40. Thanks for the interesting facts about elephants. I wonder what it's like to see an African elephant. I remember "Molly" the elephant on my shirt when I was little :) And I wanted one for a pet. My poor parents must have been at a loss for explanations!

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  41. I had no idea about the bees - it makes total sense. What a lovely, non-invasive and peaceful way to save the crops AND the elephants from any harm (well, almost, except for those bee stings). This is exceptional. Thank you for sharing all these interesting facts with us, I really enjoyed reading them and watching your video.

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