Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Amboseli Elephants

Amboseli National Park in Southern Kenya is known for its large herd of elephants.  We spent two days in this beautiful park and witnessed first hand how loving and intelligent these massive creatures are.  The African Elephant is the largest land mammal on earth.  We saw many herds of females with their young and had the rare opportunity to see twins.  Our guide told us this was the first time in 38 years that a female elephant had given birth to twins in Amboseli.

 It was so much fun seeing these youngsters whip their trunk around, trying to figure out how to use the darn thing.  We saw them imitating their mothers, pulling up grass to eat, but often missing their mouths.  The grass ended up on top of their heads or back on the ground.  Their trunks are extensions of their noses and contain over 60,000 muscles.  It is a very useful fifth limb but a challenge to operate!

We also attended a very interesting lecture by a ranger from the Kenya Wildlife Service one evening at the lodge.  He talked about the constant strain and conflict between the elephants and the encroaching communities that surround the park.  Animals don't know where the boundaries are and love to forage for treats like potatoes, cabbages and onions. Electric fences are helping, but they also interfere with migration.  It is an ongoing problem. 

One rascal, a huge male elephant named Tim, has figured out where these treats are and how to avoid electric shocks by knocking down the gates.  He makes regular excursions outside the park for a midnight snack.  The rangers have put a collar on him for tracking but Tim keeps figuring out how to remove it.  He has also learned that when an angry farmer throws a spear at his backside, he can simply go back to the park and hang around the vet's office.  Someone always comes out to patch him up!

Our guide told us that Tim likes to play Chicken with the safari trucks. "He never charges but he loves to scare people."  He will stroll head on towards a truck, forcing the driver to back up. He also likes to grab cameras and toss them in the air like a football or smash them to pieces with his enormous foot.

One of the most beautiful scenes of the entire safari was the herd of elephants strolling in front of iconic Mt. Kilimanjaro.  We were lucky to see the entire mountain that day.  My travel buddy would summit it two weeks later, but I never saw it again; it was always obscured by clouds, even when I flew over it on my way to Zanzibar.

Our guide told us we would be sick of elephants by the time we left Amboseli but I have to tell you this was not the case.  Elephants are dignified, regal creatures.  I could watch them all day!

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