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More on Tarangire National Park

February 8, 2016

Elephant Close UpI’ve been home for a week, and I can’t stop thinking about elephants…and lions…and cheetahs…and wildebeests…and… But mostly about the elephants in Tarangire National Park. While most people have at least heard of the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, ask if they’ve ever heard of Tarangire and you get a blank stare. In any other place, without the other two huge national parks to compete for visitors’ attention, Tarangire would stand alone for its huge concentration of wildlife. Animals were harder to spot there, because the grasses were thicker and taller than in the Serengeti — lions melted into the grass, and the leopards we were hoping to see never appeared.

The day was overcast, with an unfortunate sky that did nothing to complement photos, and overnight rains prevented us from leaving the dirt track. But small herds of elephants grazed fairly near the road, giving us an intimate view of their behavior. Babies, for the most part, stayed close to their mothers, and I could almost imagine Mom passing along instructions and wisdom.

Aside from the rustling sound produced as they munched the dry grass, the elephants were nearly silent as they grazed. That is, until we spotted two young bulls roughhousing.

Locked Horns

 

Twisted Trunks.jpg  Butting Heads

Friends Again

Grand gazelles are also plentiful in the park. This small herd was alert to some danger, though we never saw what it was.

These mongoose (mongeese? mongooses?) were on the lookout from atop a termite mound…

…and a wide-eyed hyrax peered out from his rocky perch. Hyrax.jpg

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Edson, we spotted a variety of colorful birds, including the lilac-breasted roller, the red-billed hornbill and at the long-tailed magpie shrike…

The most moving, and saddest, moment of the day, however, was with the elephants. While photographing mothers and babies, I spotted a cow a ways off from the herd, flapping her ears and swishing her tail vigorously, and I asked Edson what she was so agitated about. We slowly drew closer along the track and saw a small, still form at her feet — her baby. Using his powerful binoculars, Edson confirmed that the baby wasn’t breathing.

Mother Elephant Grieving.jpg

He told us she would stay with the calf’s body until it began to decompose, to ward off scavengers. The rest of the herd kept a respectful distance, but did not abandon her. This is one of the death rituals practiced by these highly intelligent creatures, who have also been known to gently touch the carcasses and bones of other elephants with their trunks and cover the bodies with grass, sticks and leaves. It’s hard to describe the mournful look on the mother’s face, though you may catch it if you click on the photo and zoom in close.

I have so many more pictures of the elephants in Tarangire, and will never forget this day.

Elephants on Parade.jpg

 

 

 

5 Comments
  1. Karen Dugan permalink

    I can’t possibly know the impact this has had on you, Diana. However, your writing and photos have captured so much! You did share the mournful look on the mother elephant’s face.

  2. Marlo Quick permalink

    I have loved reading your descriptions and reactions to this fabulous trip. Your photos and words perfectly complement each other. Something about the very first photo on this blog has entranced me and kept me coming back to look at it again.

  3. Oh Diana, the mother elephant story was a wonderful pictorial. How sad, yet noble of these huge beasts with a gentle heart for their young and companionship within their herd. Keep ’em coming!

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