The African Elephant: A Photo Essay
A typical image of Africa – Elephants in the African sunset
Seeing the African elephant trudging across the savanna grassland with a mesmerising sunset in the background is a huge draw for visiting Africa. Going on a safari would not be complete without spotting these majestic giants. Standing up to 4 meters tall, these beautiful animals are the largest land mammals walking on earth.
The African elephant is taller, has larger ears and more difficult to domesticate than its Asian counterpart. They have very strong family relationships and females join together in big herds with their offspring for the rest of their lives, led by the oldest female, the matriarch. The young males will separate from the female herd as soon as they reach puberty between the age of 14 to 16 years. After that, they will roam the bush by themselves or form a small herd with other males and only join the females again to mate.
The gestation period is the longest of any animal and takes almost 2 years. The female herd is very protective of their calves and mostly you’ll see them in the middle of the group with the bigger females standing around them.
Elephants roam over great distances in search of water and food. For the most part of the day, they are foraging through the bush eating leaves or sticks or drinking water by a waterhole or river. Whereas some animals can go days without drinking, water is very important for the elephant as they need to drink on a daily basis. Also, you’ll often see them spraying themselves with water or taking a mud bath to cool off. Before leaving the waterhole they’ll cover themselves with dust in order to protect their skin from insects and the sun.
With their calm movements and imposing physical presence, these gentle giants are fascinating animals to watch, in addition they are very photogenic. However young calves are mostly very playful. You’ll often see them playing together, trying to find various uses for their trunks and sometimes be very brave and charge the safari vehicle, which at times is just hilarious.
Even if the African elephant seems to have a very tranquil and gentle nature, they are considered as one of the notorious Big 5 (which is the classification for being the most dangerous animals to hunt while on foot), together with the leopard, buffalo, rhino and the lion.
Their grandeur gives them respect in the animal kingdom. They are the true giants of the African bush.