A dangerous crossing!


George Mugera, Education intern

Date Published

The Samburu National reserve has received an incredible amount of  rainfall over the past few weeks. As a result the park is lush with green pastures which has been a great relief to elephants and other wildlife. The Ewaso Ny’iro River, which is the lifeline for both wildlife and the Samburu people, has been constantly overflowing, often breaking its banks, and the heavy currents have made it tricky for elephants to make their regular crossings between Samburu and Buffalo Springs,

We witnessed an amazing event recently while out on LTM, when the Native Americans and the Artists family – about 25 in total – tried to cross the river with several small babies in tow. The elephants had been foraging on the river bank on the Buffalo Springs side, swimming in the shallow waters and resting.  But then one bull unwisely started to cross and we think the rest of the herd decided to follow. 

All seemed fine until half way when the raging waters became too powerful. We watched helplessly as the baby elephants were dragged under the water, their tiny trunks raised in the air. Fortunately they were being closely guarded by the rest of the family with some of the elephants even holding the babies with their own trunks to stop them from being swept away. However it was touch and go and it was obvious to us that if the herd continued, something terrible was going to happen.

Rodin at this point, perhaps sensing the group were in danger, decisively sounded the alarm and warned everyone to turn back. The herd formed a circle of protection around the smallest family members and turned back to the river bank, trumpeting loudly, no doubt happy to have made it to safety. At one stage, Jonathan, one of the bulls travelling with the family that day, ran over to the first bull who had tried to cross and began trumpeting loudly at him. Was he telling him off? We’ll never know.

We were all so proud of Rodin that day for using her intelligence and knowledge so wisely and for saving her family from a potential disaster.  The herd learnt a valuable lesson and we were also able to witness not only how incredibly connected elephants are but also how much their lives depend on the decisions made by the matriarch.  

Check out the film of the crossing below by David Kuulei. Photographs by Jane Wynyard