Close Encounters of a Bullish Kind
In the four weeks since we first arrived in Naboisho we’ve had exceptionally good luck in locating elephants for our film. There’s one family that we see more often than others and one 5 -6 year old member who stands out. When Bob and I first saw him I nicknamed him ‘Nubbin’ as he has a unique bump on his forehead. The more time we spend with him we realize that he’s quite a character. He’s an instigator of play with the other elephants his age, and with his younger brother, a calf less than a year old.
We’ve watched Nubbin as he gets the others to play a game called “imaginary enemies” where the elephants run into thick croton bush trumpeting and chasing each other. It’s hilarious to watch. We’ve also filmed Nubbin rush to the aid of his little brother when older elephants in the group, while roughhousing, unintentionally frightened the young calf.
[gdlr_quote align=”center” ]He is very curious around us and often comes close to the vehicle to check us out”[/gdlr_quote] Mating rituals
A few days ago we went out early to find Nubbin’s family and were excited to see that an enormous old bull had joined them. Elephants his age are becoming scarce these days given the tremendous upsurge in poaching. The towering giant was in musth; a time of heightened aggression and increased reproductive hormones that male elephants first experience around the age of 30. A female in the group was in estrus, given that the huge bull – along with a younger male – were following after her. The younger bull didn’t stand a chance to breed with her but nonetheless he stayed nearby hoping for an opportunity. We watched the mating ritual while the “guard bull” or older one fended off the potential suitor.
Females prefer the bigger bulls so she stayed nearby him, as did her 5-6 year old son. We too stayed with them hoping to get the rare opportunity to film a mating. In the late afternoon the elephants moved out of the croton bushes and into a more open area. We were ready to film when we noticed the bull and female were moving closer together. Bob and I rolled our cameras while the mating occurred. The pandemonium that ensued, the trumpeting and vocalization of the family members was incredible, with the elephants running toward the mating and gathering around the old bull and female.
Hoping for a bright future
The next morning we found the elephants again but this time the old bull was alone, yet not far from Nubbin’s family. We’d learned that females stay in estrus only for two to three days so it appeared that her time was over. Later that evening we watched as the family traveled in the opposite direction of the large bull. While seeing him lumber off into the distant landscape, we were concerned for his safety as he wanders into areas less protected than Naboisho. We couldn’t stop thinking of how fortunate we’d been to witness this event, and that in 22 months perhaps another elephant will be born into Nubbin’s family. We hope for Nubbin that he too will one day be an old bull, living his life with more safety and security, and continue the legacy of his kind.
Gina and Bob Poole
About Gina & Bob Poole
No strangers to Naboisho, Bob has previously documented the life of a cheetah family in the conservancy. At Naboisho they will be following a family of elephants on their journey for a film for National Geographic WILD. If you are joining us in camp soon, you will have the opportunity to meet them and maybe even join a game drive where you find out what it takes to make one of these films.To find out more please contact your trusted travel agent or contact us.
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