Sitting on a hillside on a cold windy day for several hours waiting for elephants on the opposite hillside to come out of the trees isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but for me it was the last chance I was going to get to say goodbye to a very special herd of elephants before I left Thanda for the last time.
I have a huge amount of respect for elephants and I have been trying to find this herd on and off for 3 years since I first came to Thanda. We know them as the ‘Ghost Herd’ and until we recently dropped the fence (see blog post Taking Down the Fences) they have kept themselves entirely to the wild-side of Thanda known as Mduna. This area doesn’t get a lot of vehicles and so they are quite un-habituated, preferring to avoid people rather than ignore them. Over the last few years I have spent time trying to habituate them by giving them positive encounters (mostly just by myself) and I like to think I made a connection.
After 2 hours my patience was finally rewarded and with binoculars firmly in hand I stared at the other side watching these amazing animals finally come out into the open and I certainly got more than I expected. As one of the females came out of the bushes I saw that she was being followed by a tiny baby elephant which could be no more than a few days old! I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to take some video but as the baby is so tiny (and the herd was so far away) all that is mostly visible through the long grass is the top of the small body as it follows mum. I did however manage to capture one decent shot!
Congratulations Mduna Herd and welcome to Thanda little one; it was a beautiful last visual of my favourite herd of elephants and one I will never forget.
Ngyakuthanda Thanda…..sala kahle
By Alison Squance (Ulwazi Research team)