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Elephant Ingenuity

November 3, 2014

Elephant Ingenuity

- as seen by -

Andrea K. Turkalo Andrea K. Turkalo

After two decades of studying and observing forest elephants, this picture shows the only time that I observed an elephant using its trunk as a funnel. Usually elephants place their trunks in the mouth of another elephant to steal mineral-rich water. Here, Sappho IV is using her trunk to catch the falling droplets from her mother, Sappho I.

This site, the Dzanga Clearing in the forests of the Central African Republic, attracts elephants because beneath its sandy wet pan is a mineral layer. Females work hard to get to the minerals, burrowing through the sand at the bottom of many of the puddles that dapple the clearing. Females share what they get with their young and extended families. Males dig and dominate huge holes, especially during the dry season, which expose the mineral water source.

This 2004 photo has a sad sequel. Sappho I, the matriarch of this group, disappeared shortly after it was taken. Her body, as well as that of her youngest calf, was found not far from the clearing. She had been killed by multiple bullets.

Sappho’s other offspring are still seen in the clearing today, and since her death, her two adult daughters, including Sapho IV (seen in this photo), have both produced calves. They continue to associate as a family group.

Canon EOS 7D

, Africa Map It


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Debra McDaniel
November 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Why can’t drones be used to track poachers, the worst scourge to our wildlife? There isn’t a punishment suitable for these killers of animals, except for them to be killed instead. I’m tired of being nice and saying that they should be prosecuted. It’s time for the animals and us humans to start dishing out the only thing poachers seem to understand……death to the poachers.

November 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm

Elephants are such intelligent, majestic animals. Just HOW could somebody have the audacity and sick head and heart kill themand their dear babies in cold blood!!??

There are too many deranged people in this world and those who take the lives of innocent beautiful creatures ought to be caught, tried and incarcerated for the rest of their lives., the SOB’s.

Martin Storey
November 15, 2014 at 2:36 am

You are an inspiration to the world. I am glad to read that the situation is such that you have been able to return to Dzanga-Dzanga, and I hope that you are finding there some joy and hope for the future. Let the rest of us know!
Martin (ex-Gamba!)