Nicholas School Internship Blogs

The Bittersweet Elephant
by -- August 10th, 2012

It was a typical morning, out for a spoor tracking transect run early. Not too many animals to be seen, as per usual. And then we came around the corner and an elephant was right in front of us! I snatched up my camera and began clicking away, afraid she would immediately start to wander off. But she took her time, seemingly a bit agitated at our presence at first and then continued feeding in a nonchalant manner. I was estatic. I had seen elephants twice, from a great distance, and caught them on camera trap but had yet to see one up close and in person. I smiled all the way back to camp.

The next day, Buddy and Laly received a message that an elephant was causing a bit of trouble in the village and might be ill. I joined them to see if we could find her and unfortunately, she was in the middle of a thicket. We suspected that perhaps this was the elephant I saw the day before. We returned the next day after more reports of elephant trouble and found her in a thicket. It was in fact the same elephant I had photographed, based on notches in her ears. Buddy and Laly thought she looked a bit thin and aged. They hypothesized that she had fallen behind the herd and was remaining near the village because of the water source nearby. She certainly was a bit spry though! She was clearly not happy with our presence and made that known a few times with mock charges. We were quickly instructed to dive behind or climb up the termite hill should she actually head our way. Those mock charges sure will get your adrenaline rushing!

Now there was a dilemma. She was very close to the village center and clearly in no mood to move along. Eventually, someone would get hurt and that would probably not bode well for her. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, she knelt down and died a natural death a few days later. At least no one got hurt, and the circle of life ran its course. Added a certain touch of bitterness to my sweet experience of a mere few days before.

Now we have an opportunity. An elephant carcass is sure to attract some carnivore-style attention….hmmmm…and the last round of spoor tracking found a lion track not too terribly far from where she lay. Per-maybe-haps this was a golden opportunity. We decided to place a couple of camera traps in the area to see what species might come by. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck – lots of jackal and honey badger pictures with a few spotted hyena mixed in (not to mention quite a few curious villagers!) but no cats. Ah well, at least we tried!

1 Comment

  1. Molly
    Aug 12, 2012

    Poor sweetheart – I thought elephants stuck around when one of their own was ill and dying?

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