We found the Planets near the Ngare Mara swamps on the morning of the 28th. STE has wanted to collar this family for some time, as they use areas south of the reserves and can teach us a lot about elephant movement in this area. Though I’ve seen nine immobilizations at this point, I can see that no two are alike. Mercury’s immobilization and collaring stick out in my memory. When she was darted, her two youngest calves stayed beside her until the last possible moment. I was so impressed with their determination.
The collaring itself went smoothly and Mercury was back on her feet about twenty-five minutes after being darted. She felt her collar and wrapped her trunk around the underside, pulling on it. She started to move toward her group and called to her 2-year old calf, who came running up the hill to her, trumpeting loudly and touching her mother.
When Mercury was close to the rest of her family, a young bull came up to her and started inspecting her. He felt and smelled the collar itself behind her left ear, but also examined other parts of her body, moving from her ear to her abdomen, and back again. This went on for several minutes until he pushed her into the shade. He then resumed his investigation for another few minutes. It was so powerful to watch such a curious and receptive mind in action. It is moments like this that remind me of how much more there is to learn about the ways in which elephants perceive and navigate their world.