When I go out for Long Term Monitoring one thing I always looking forward to is seeing the baby elephants. They are mesmerizing to watch. They can seem even silly and clumsy at times-like how the very young calves, one or two months old, drink water. They submerge their entire head inside the water to drink with their mouth, raising the trunk above water to breathe. One would think that it’s all fun and games but it’s because they don’t know how to use their trunks to drink yet. I also love how they run around playing and play-fighting with the other calves their age or older.
With the onset of the rainy season in Samburu, many elephant families have poured into the reserve to enjoy the fresh green grass and shrubs, and with them…babies! And there are quite a few of them. They are always with their families, at their mothers’ side although we have already spotted one or two orphaned elephants. Being with their families is very important. This is how they are protected and have a better chance of surviving their younger years. This is also how they learn how their world works.
These babies will one day grow up to be adult cows and bulls. They are the future of the elephant species. All living and non-living things are important in one way or another- we are all interconnected at our different trophic levels. Elephants are a keystone species. They help reshape the land, they dig for water during the dry season that other animals can use, and their dung disperses seeds and can also be used as a source of food by other animals.
We have already spotted quite a few adult females in oestrus (a recurring period of sexual receptivity and activity) since the beginning of the rainy season, and many adult bulls have also come into the reserve, some of them in musth. This gives me hope that the elephant population may one day recover from the massive losses incurred in the many decades past. But this will only be possible if attitudes change, conservation efforts are successful and we as humans find new ways to co-exist with them as our population increases and encroaches into these once wild lands.