Most, if not all African Safari goers, have their favourite safari animals. The cat family tends to top the list for many. However they are far from the most active of wildlife; lions in particular are generally observed lazing around or even sound asleep. Having said that, there is little cuter than lion cubs which, like any kids, tend to be more active than the adults! The African Elephant Elephants probably come in a close second to the cats in terms of favourite animals. African elephants are often regarded as a keystone species as they open up the way for other small animals and allow new grass to grow. They are comically referred to as “environmental engineers” as they tend to restructure whatever environment they are in. Eating & Drinking Elephants are fascinating animals; watchable about 20 hours per day — about 17 of which is spent foraging for their 200 – 300 kgs of food! An elephant’s diet consists of grass, twigs, bark, fruit and seed pods. They also drink about 100 – 250 litres of water per day. Elephants also dig for roots, minerals or even water in the dry season. They are great swimmers and also enjoy playing around in the water, taking mud baths, as well as dusting themselves off with sand or soil to keep insects at bay and protect them from the sun. However it is their soundless movement of these enormous creatures that is particularly captivating, simply appearing and disappearing into the bush on their seemingly slippered feet! Youngsters The youngsters are particularly engaging, with their unruly trunks. They’re also full of bluff and bluster; mock charging vehicles before running back to the safety of Mum. The adolescents, too, put on a show proving the emerging strength by trying to knock down trees. A breeding herd of elephants consists of females (young and old) and young males. Once a male reaches a certain stage in adolescence they are kicked out of the herd and either lives a solitary life or connect up with another male. The herd’s matriarch organises one of the herd to help deliver newborns, after which the infant is introduced to the matriarch who in turn introduces it to the rest of the herd. Teeth Elephants have 6 sets of teeth. After the last set has worn down they cannot chew and eventually die although they do graduate to a softer diet. Their tusks are really elongated incisors and are essentially no different from other teeth. Elephant tusks never stop growing, though they often get worn down or damaged through constant use. The Best Places to Find Elephants You would have to be very unlucky not to see elephants wherever your safari takes you. However some of the best known places for an elephant encounter are listed as follows: Amboseli in Kenya is home to the best observed elephants in the world – indeed much of our current understanding of these intelligent and complex creatures emerged from these observations by Cynthia Moss and her research team! Since elephants are known for their huge impact on the environment, their habitation has largely reduced Amboseli to dry and dusty plains. Camp Jabulani in the greater Kruger area in South Africa rescued an abandoned 5 month old elephant, called Jabulani, from a mud hole over 12 years ago and raised him to be a cheeky adolescent. They also provided a home for 11 semi-habituated Zimbabwean elephants who were going to be put down; providing them and their keepers with a home. The Camp is the last word in luxury and offers guests the opportunity to meet these rescued elephants and even to enjoy an elephant back safari. Note these elephants continue to be very well treated. Beautiful Botswana, too, is one of the foremost locations for seeing elephants while on safari. In fact, the Savute area in Botswana is referred to as the elephant capital of Africa. Botswana also has a strong stance against hunting. Sanctuary Stanleys Camp in Botswana also offers the opportunity to walk with a herd of semi-habituated elephants. Mfuwe Camp in Zambia was unknowingly positioned on the elephants’ path without making any allowance for the eles. This has not however caused the elephants to find a detour, now they just march through the lodge! In contrast, the designers of the new Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana knew part of the camp would be located on an elephant track and so built in gaps in the walkway between the tents to accommodate the original residents! Risk of Extinction Prince William has weighed in on the desperate need to arrest the potential extinction of some “must see” animals including elephants which are poached for their ivory tusks. He predicts that, unless certain measures are taken, some of these animals will not be around by the time Princess Charlotte reaches age 25. The most pathetic part of all of this? Elephant tusks are used primarily for the manufacture of useless trinkets such as ornaments and jewellery. In other words, the lives of these amazing and emotional creatures are being sacrificed to produce completely frivolous and unnecessary products. So while not condemning past generations who did not have the knowledge we do today, and exhorting us to become more responsible consumers, Prince William’s comments have made many realise that none of us, unfortunately not even whole species, are guaranteed a “tomorrow”! So carpe diem and shift that safari to the top of your bucket list!