African Elephants are an icon of Africa! Sadly, human greed is decimating their populations across the continent with estimates stating that an elephant is killed every 15 minutes! This senseless killing is driven largely by an Asian market that prizes the ivory as ornaments. These cravings drive organised crime and international terrorism through funds generated from the illegal ivory sales. Fortunately, while many African Elephant populations are under threat, those in Botswana are well protected and are therefore thriving. This makes the Chobe River one of the best places to view and photograph these magnificent animals.
I was recently privileged enough to spend a few days with Pangolin Safaris on their river-boats that are specially designed for wildlife photography. This provided some of the best photographic opportunities that I have had for several years, with amazing chances to photograph the large numbers of African Elephants that congregate along the river during the dry season. We had regular sightings of small bachelor herds of elephant bulls that were extremely relaxed to our presence and through a slow and gentle approach we were able to get close to these bulls and really study and enjoy their presence. Wide-angled lenses soon became the order of the day, providing interesting perspectives that really highlighted the elephants massive size and yet also brought out their gentleness.
Larger breeding herds of elephant, that were led by wise and slightly cautious matriarchs, played and frolicked in the water as they crossed from the mainland to lush grass-covered islands. After having spent the day feeding on these islands, most of the elephant returned at dusk to the mainland of either Botswana or Namibia. This really highlighted that our conservation efforts for these animals needs to focus on the elephant’s entire home-ranges that do not understand or abide by human made political boundaries. The work being undertaken by Elephants Without Borders is so important in the conservation of one of Africa’s greatest assets and we as individuals, must also make an effort in supporting these conservation agencies so that they may continue with ensuring that Africa's great icons will continue to exist into the future.
1 of 12: An African Elephant bull grazes on lush green grasses that are found on the islands of the Chobe River. In the background Cape buffalo and other herbivores also graze.
2 of 12: An African Elephant feeds at sunset on an island in the Chobe River
3 of 12: The relaxed nature of the Chobe River African Elephants allows fantastic opportunities for wildlife photography.
4 of 12: An African Elephant bull crosses back to the mainland after sunset and after having spent most of the day feeding on an island in the Chobe River.
5 of 12: A breeding herd of African Elephants cross between islands in the Chobe River.
6 of 12: The matriarch leads a breeding herd of African Elephants to rich feeding grounds in the Chobe River.
7 of 12: Young African Elephant bulls drink and bathe lazily in the Chobe River during the heat of the day.
8 of 12: An African Elephant uses its trunk as a snorkel as it swims across the Chobe River.
9 of 12: Two young African Elephants jostle and play in the cooling waters of the Chobe River.
10 of 12: An African Elephant swims across the Chobe River to reach the islands where it will feed for most of the day.
11 of 12: A young African Elephant bull glistens with water running off its body after swimming across the Chobe River.
12 of 12: After having swum across the Chobe River, a young African Elephant bull enjoys a mud bath and a short rest.
A special thanks must be given to SA Airlink that sponsored my flights to Kasane and connects you on a daily basis from Johannesburg to Kasane and the Chobe.