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Elephant Table Manners

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you may well have noticed something of a proliferation of elephant across our feed of late. Fact is, in addition to the two male lions Blackie and Ginger wandering through the miombo below camp last week, or the leopard stalking impala using the shade thrown by the floodlights on Zambezi deck, we have been fairly inundated with the great grey behemoths.

Two of our guests were lucky enough to witness the very rare spectacle of an old and clearly experienced bull “jumping”, that is to say rising on its back legs to get better access to the branches just out of reach. Although it was only the work of a moment, it was particularly special to see our Anabezi logo enacted in the flesh!

Many of you may remember the exploits of Lumpy Bum, one of our many resident bulls, and indeed the adventures continue, unflappable as ever and with the expected elephantine appetite. Several days ago, we watched that marvellous, trademark trunk at close range as Lumpy in blissful greed proceeded to systematically demolish the acacia next to the vehicle deck. To be standing so close to such a remarkably relaxed elephant, slowly yet determinedly shredding the bark and 5 inch thorns with all the dexterity and general mess of a 4 year old eating green beans, was truly fascinating. It was amazing to see the inner workings of the great mill stone teeth, casually grinding thorns so long and sharp they induce a sympathetic cringe, almost bruising the mind with one glance alone. That autonomous trunk too – almost twisting itself into knots so as to gain better grip on the branch of choice: each ridge of leathery skin a sheer mountain in the early morning light, deflecting thorn and splinter with impunity.

The scoop, though, might have been the most interesting of these trunk-formed tools; all the methodically rigorous destruction of the tree had littered a veritable wedding carpet of confetti across the decking – prime snacking material for an elephant’s 7.02 repast. Never one to pass up an eating opportunity, we watched as Lumpy curled his trunk across the plank, sweeping the miscellany of feathery acacia leaves and thorns into a surprisingly neat pile, before coiling the verdure into the constrictions of his trunk and stuffing it into a still chewing maw… I imagine this would be the elephant equivalent of cramming too large a handful of popcorn in to one’s mouth while watching a film – although it was apparent that Lump’s concentration was fixed on the next tree on which he could exert his sizeable will – a will matched only by his appetite.

Walking home last night, I was interrupted from my thoughts of eiderdown and pillow by the sound of a shower, not of water but of winter thorn pods. Rounding a bend in the walk way, I came across a tranquil two – more elephant, this time in search of a midnight feast. I naturally stopped to watch. Illuminated by the security light, one ambled to a tree close by, lifted his trunk flush to the bole of the tree in toasting salute and gave it three or four well considered shakes. There followed a pregnant pause, laden with expectation – which was rewarded with a deluge of leaves and pods. The ever busy trunk began the lengthy but surely satisfying process of tidying up…

It has to be said: although they may have the table manners of a toddler, and the rampant destructive capacity of an axe wielding berserker, elephants certainly manage to dispose of their litter!

Image and Words: Tara Vivian-Neal