November 3, 2014
- as seen by -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