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)
Unlike some other African countries, where there are few boundaries between human settlements and wildlife; fenced reserves are a way of life in South Africa, with all wildlife contained within either government or privately owned game reserves.
A few years ago Thanda Private Game Reserve doubled in size when it leased land to form the Mduna Royal Reserve; a beautiful undeveloped and mountainous piece of Zululand which borders the western side of Thanda. Whilst it has always been possible to traverse the two properties by road the majority of the boundary fence remained in place meaning that for the wildlife most of the movement was through small gaps in the fences or across grids.
Recently however the Ulwazi and Wildlife Team were ecstatic to be able to remove a significant portion of the boundary fencing and we are very excited to see how the wildlife takes advantage of these changes.
The European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is the only member of the Roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East and Central Asia and Morocco. The European roller is a long-distance migrant, wintering in southern Africa in two distinct regions, from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa.
This is a Solifuge (also known as a Red Roman or Sun Spider). It is in the Arachnida class but is neither Spider nor Scorpion. Fascinating creatures with massive chelicerae but no venom glands, they can grow very large and are rarely seen, so we were very excited to see one in the middle of the road earlier today;-). Spotted on Thanda Safari.
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