Elephant in The Wild

South Africa Wild Area

       Southern Africa boasts one of the most diverse wildlife sanctuaries on the continent a haven dedicated to the world’s largest land mammal  the protection of elephants has created a vast wilderness sanctuary encompassing land and sea  it is home to a variety of life including some of the world’s most formidable predators this unique collection of animals and plants face a daily struggle for survival battling the elements and each other  ado elephant National Park lies on Africa’s southern coast and forms a wild corridor extending from the ocean into the interior  it extends across 1,800 square kilometers South Africa’s third largest national park  in the south rugged coastal islands rise from the sea home to hundreds of thousands of seabirds they are surrounded by warm waters teeming with life and bordered by a wild shore where lush forests meet desolate dunes .

   North is a vast dry interior with Great Plains  stretching to the Oseberg mountains at a parched thirst land beyond  paydown is a land of contrasts where plants and animals must adapt to harsh conditions to survive the animal that lives in the center of this landscape is at the heart of Eidos story  the African elephant once ranged right across Southern Africa but in the 19th century the ivory trade decimated the population by 1931 there were just 11 elephants left in this part of South Africa and something had to be done land was set aside to provide sanctuary to these last survivors and a elephant park was born it was a vital lifeline  since then a doze elephants have gone from strength to strength there are now 600 living here all descended from the first pioneers  but their narrow escape has left its mark unlike elephants in other parts of Africa more than 90% of adult females are tussles normally used for defense shows of dominance and for digging here they must do without them the reason is that by chance the original 11 animals did not carry the gene for tusk growth despite this the females have not been handicapped these herds have been extremely successful will high birth rates the population is blooming a doe now boasts one of the highest densities of elephants in Africa  the parks heartland is a paradise for the majestic Giants with water holes dotted throughout the central plains this herd has spent the coolest part of the morning feeding but with temperatures heading above 40 degrees Celsius they head for a waterhole each elephant herd is led by the oldest female the matriarch and she guides her family on their quest for food and water the youngsters are the most eager to get wet and before they drink give themselves a good splash down elephants drink up to 75 liters of water a day.

    People helps reduce body temperature and also acts as an effective sunblock but it can also be treacherous mothers must keep a careful watch the water may be only shallow for an adult but the babies can submerge themselves and the mud is deep in places but for the calves it is all about having fun this playful test of strength is important in years to come these young Bulls will have to fight others for dominance and the right to mate but for now their boisterous behavior is a bit of light-hearted entertainment Eidos water holes are a regular meeting place for herds large numbers gather to quench their thirst but it is not only elephants that are drawn in creatures big and small rely on them but you need to be on your guard the congregation attracts predators after a refreshing break the matriarch leads her family back into the bush elephants can travel up to 20 kilometers a day in search of new areas to graze and must spend up to 14 hours feeding to satisfy their hunger vast areas of a doe are dominated by a plant known as speck boar or the bacon tree its fleshy leaves are tender and nutritious and elephants love them but it’s not a one-way relationship  with their ruff feeding the herd breaks many branches dropping and trampling them into the ground these send down roots of their own creating new growth but there is more than this to speck ones success it is able to generate food for itself in a way few other species can plants require sunlight and carbon dioxide to grow but collecting carbon dioxide during the day means losing water through tiny pores in the leaves instead speculum collects all its carbon dioxide and stores it during the cool night using it for photosynthesis during the day one light is available this means it can keep its pores closed during sweltering days saving large amounts of moisture this adaptation to life .

    The elephant’s speck Boehm can thrive paddlers speculum heartlands can sustain the world’s largest land mammal but also provide precious habitat for smaller creatures microcosms of life complete with predators communal spiders nests using the thicket as scaffolding these can house more than a hundred individuals living in small chambers these huge webs are designed for one key purpose they are hunting traps a snared grasshopper struggles to free itself it’s not long before the vibrations spur the spiders to action the grasshopper has powerful legs and needs to be subdued urgently or it may escape reinforcements quickly arrive it’s too late the struggle is over the venom immobilizes the grasshopper and starts to digest its body group hunting is rare in spiders but measuring just 14 millimeters long this species relies on cooperation to take down prey the body is moved into the safety of a nesting chamber where the feast will begin but with so many mandibles to feed it’s every spider for himself and cooperation quickly turns to competition even for these communal little hunters .

It’s a precarious existence the survival of their nest comes down to the luck of avoiding destruction by passing elephants and for some species in a doe that luck has run out whilst copes well with elephant browsing the animals population is now so large that some plants which are not adapted are under threat numbers of aloes have dropped drastically in a dough as elephant numbers have risen with some species disappearing completely a five-ton animal wreaks havoc as it moves through the thicket crushing and uprooting the less robust species those that lack spec worms ability to throw down new roots suffer as a consequence but this apparent destruction opens up the landscape for other animals elephant pathways and areas of cleared ground are vital to adders rich community of game many species such as these kudu depend on the elephants to open up the landscape creating opportunities through the thick impenetrable spectrum scrub a leopard tortoise one of the parks most charismatic creatures go into remarkable sizes here some exceed 40 kilograms he carries protection with him wherever he goes and with some luck he could live for up to a hundred years but his armor wasn’t always this robust and during the early years of life he was vulnerable to predation adders ticket provided crucial cover for him during this dangerous stage between the parks Suede’s of succulent bushes are large areas of open grassland supporting a variety of graces able to tolerate higher temperatures than many other antelope red hartebeest spend long hours feeding in the full Sun males have shorter thicker horns than the females which equipped them for territorial battles but when faced by real danger their first instinct is to run the overdeveloped for quarters allow these animals to gallop over great distances without tiring but the heart abuse aren’t the only ones that make the grasslands their home a host of creatures take advantage of areas cleared by the elephants cattle egrets pounce on insects disturbed by a herd of zebra as pure grazers planes or virtual zebra eat only grass sensitive lips gather blades between strong incisors cropping close to the ground they digest this grass rapidly allowing them to get all the protein they need from even the toughest least nutritious grasses but a rapid digestion means they have to constantly top up the tank even in the most nutritious pastures zebra spend as much as 60 percent of their time eating day and night and their feathered companions are never far behind but life isn’t all peace and quiet it is the breeding season and females are in high demand a buildup of hormones in the female’s urine triggers the herd stallion into action and he has his work cut out if he is to pass his genes on successfully zebra often used tender physical contact to establish and reinforce bonds and males are known to adopt a much gentler approach when courting young fillies they are even known to groom each other scraping and nibbling each other’s necks and backs Adair’s grasslands are divided up into a number of territories and whilst some provide food others provide shelter living in families has advantages and drawbacks a yellow Mongoose is searching for a meal he’s on the hunt for insects but you better eat fast there is always an older brother or sister waiting to steal your meal only quick submission prevents the fight from getting serious with so many large herbivores living in the park finding a source of food isn’t a problem for one resident the adder flightless and dung beetle with many elephant and other large mammals around .

Always a steady supply of food but it’s still hard work he has to move his food parcel to his safe hiding place and it’s a long way away for him the dung ball is huge and it sometimes has a mind of its own but he is determined despite his apparent clumsiness he is remarkably clever he uses the dung balls to find his bearings according to the position of the Sun and then it’s back to work heading in the right direction this endemic species is one of few dung beetles that can’t fly a major handicap in a search for food but it’s an evolutionary trade-off the flight has been sacrificed for an amazing adaptation to life in pedis hot dry grasslands like other animals beetles need to breathe and produce carbon dioxide waste in the process this has to be expelled from the beetles body but a lot of water is lost in the process so this special beetle has evolved in a way to solve the problem the empty space under his shell usually taken up by wings in other species forms a specialized storage tank for carbon dioxide and he only has to exhale in a single burst every half hour like this he avoids dehydration by saving a significant amount of water vapor for these beetles dung means life they even lay their eggs in dung nests but for this adders elephant waste is no good only Buffalo dung will do luckily there is plenty in the park younger stronger males have cast this old bull out of the herd he will live out his days alone on a desert island or join a small band of other aged males they are known locally as dagger boys from the Zulu word for Monday wallowing is one of their favorite pastimes they are the epitome of grumpy old men and are well known for their aggression weighing in at more than 600 kilograms only the most powerful predator would have a hope of taking down one of these balls and they don’t come more powerful than lion they rely largely on ambush tactics making use of cover and catching prey unawares for this reason adders open grass areas are crucial to buffalo herds gather in large congregations in the open minimizing the chance of ambush but buffalo are also armed while they’re impressive horns are used mainly in tussles for dominance combined with the buffalos bulk they make a formidable foe for even the most powerful killers in fact for the Lions there’s seldom such a thing as an easy meal even the warthogs are armed to the teeth these pigs grow ivory tusks just as an elephant does but instead of two they have for this males large upper tusks are used in tussles with other boars the lumps of hardened skin below his eyes offer protection during these fights it is these what like growths that give the warthogs their name but it’s the lower shorter tusks which predators fear these grind against the uppers every time he closes his mouth this continuously sharpens them and when wielded by a full-grown hog like this they are a dangerous prospect indeed for predators and with mum around even piglets aren’t an easy meal at the first sight of danger they’ll dash for their burrow but if cornered she will defend them viciously using her sharp tusks to slash and stab in the ongoing battle of predator versus prey it is often the young and vulnerable animals that get singled out the park is home to a large number of predators from the Regal lion to the slide jackal all are on the lookout for a meal  these brothers have been together since leaving their pride at a young age they cooperate to control a territory and spend much of their time side by side  but like many of adders predators they hunt under the cover of darkness night fairy gives the parks caste of killers of valuable advantage over their prey dawn reveals a tragedy alone elephant stands over the remains of her dead calf trapped in the water hole overnight it was attacked and died but its mother has remained on a lonely vigil elephants have strong bonds with their offspring even after death this young cow could have spent the next nine years with her calf seldom Strang more than a few meters away instead the same instinct to protect now keeps her close to its remains unwilling to surrender them  a member of the herd approaches the young mother she sniffs tentatively her movements seem considered even gentle a life spent together means elephants generates strong bonds even nursing one another’s calves  while the rest of her herd drinks she stays with the mother could she be trying to comfort .

Survival  elephants are known to have long memories so we cannot tell how long the trauma of her loss will last but the chances are high that she will bear another cough sooner or later the experience of death will be replaced by the joy of new life  elephants normally give birth every five years but having lost her young calf she will come into estrus sooner once pregnant she should give birth again in just under two years rejoining her herd is the first step of this journey  they will accept her back and the company familiar relatives will give her some comfort the a family unit the building block of elephant society will remain strong and she will be part of it  her offspring and theirs will wander the landscape of this incredible park for decades to come  a doe is a land of extremes with areas of great richness and places of scarcity and hardship life for its flagship species the elephant is good with low mortality rates the population is ever growing but even for these Giants life in the wild is fraught with danger and survival is never guaranteed

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