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There’s An Elephant On The Walkway

The Lower Zambezi National Park is a massive unfenced wilderness area which means that the animals are free to roam wherever they please. This also means that they tend to find themselves in a bit of trouble, as humans have decided to set up shop along the Zambezi River in many different ways.

Some of the locals are fishermen and others are farmers, planting delicious crops that the elephants can’t resist during the dry winters, however, this happens in the Game Management Areas (GMAs) and not in the national park but there are no fences to divide the two. Along with these are commercial safari camps, dotted along the Zambezi River. The animals that live far away from these camps tend to be on the shy side and don’t necessarily hang around for too long. However, the animals that spend substantially more time around the safari camps become accustomed to the strange noises, sights and smells that come with the territory. We won’t get into the conflict between wildlife and humans just yet… I’ll save that for another time.

The story I want to tell you today is one about an elephant bull that has been hanging around Anabezi camp for quite some time and because of his regular visits, it seemed only fitting to give him a name. He has been dubbed Houdini. Why Houdini, you ask? Well, he has a knack for disappearing every so often (we aren’t particularly sure where to) but he never stays away for too long.

When he is wandering around camp, you’ll definitely know about it because Houdini doesn’t believe in barriers. There is a beautiful wooden walkway that extends the length of the entire camp, which is approximately 640m and has allowed the vegetation to flourish in certain areas. The grass is greener, the leaves apparently taste better and where there is a winter thorn tree (Fadherbia albidia) there is also a pile of its pods gathering on the ground. You would think that the wooden walkways would be enough of a deterrent to keep the elephants out but, if they want to get to the buffet I just described, they simply bulldoze their way through. Wrong. For those of you who have always believed elephants are destructive animals causing more harm than good, I hope to show you that this is untrue.

There is honestly not a bad bone in this elephant’s body, he has the kindest eyes and the ONLY time he flares his ears and turns to face you is if you’ve given him a fright. He then continues feeding and allows you to pass within just a few feet. However, when Houdini decides that it’s time to head to the ‘garden of Eden’ he does so in the most gentle manner, breaking only what he needs to. First, he snaps the two small matepes (these are narrow wooden poles that line the walkways, these essentially are the ‘railings’) then he’ll step up onto the walkway with his two front legs and stretches them as far across as possible to the other side. (As if he knew his weight could break the walkway-which it could.) Houdini then shimmies his back legs as close to the walkway as possible before stepping off with his front legs. You get the idea! I have included a video for you all to watch because his technique is amazing to see. I can quite confidently say that the elephants of the Lower Zambezi don’t enjoy using the stairs like their cousins in Mfuwe National Park. These elephant acrobatics are almost a daily activity but sometimes Houdini just barges through the staff quarters and helps himself to whatever he likes. He also occasionally acts as an alarm clock, in case you’ve overslept! (Shannon can vouch for this after experiencing it first hand.)

It isn’t just Houdini that graces us with his presence, he has a few friends too. Lumpy Bum (the biggest of the lot), Toothpick (named after his narrow tusks), and my personal favourite, Walter (whose tusks turn out and make a ‘W’ shape and the youngest of the bulls that live around camp) are just a few of the regulars that we’ve given names. Even though these elephants have relaxed around humans, it is important to remember that they are wild animals and we do not feed or touch them. It is not a good idea to get too close to any of the creatures around camp otherwise you might find yourself in a pickle. We recommend using the zoom on your camera as a better alternative to trying to take the perfect selfie with one of nature’s giants!

We are incredibly lucky at Anabezi and Amanzi Luxury Tented Camp to be surrounded by so many wonderful creatures and we hope that you come and visit us soon. If you’d like to inquire about a safari, please don’t hesitate to contact us. You’ll find all the details on the websitewww.anabezi.com

Written by: Tayla McCurdy