The Matriarch of Mabalingwe

In 1995 Elephants that were earmarked to be culled in the Kruger National Park, were relocated to Mabalingwe Nature Reserve today there are 21 Elephant in the Reserve.

  The Mabalingwe Elephant Herd   |   © Photography by Marthinus Duckit

The Mabalingwe Elephant Herd   |   © Photography by Marthinus Duckit

Elephants are considered a keystone species in the African landscape. That means elephants play a key role in maintaining the balance of all other species in the community. They pull down trees and break up thorny bushes, which help to create grasslands for other animals to survive. They create salt licks that are rich in nutrients for other animals. They dig waterholes in dry river beds that other animals can use as a water source, and their foot prints create deep holes that water can collect in. They create trails that act as fire breakers and water run offs. Other animals, including humans, depend on the openings elephants create in the forest and brush and in the waterholes they dig. Elephant dung (droppings) is important to the environment as well. Baboons and birds pick through dung for undigested seeds and nuts, and dung beetles reproduce in these deposits. The nutrient-rich manure replenishes depleted soils so that humans can have a nutrient rich soil to plant crops in. Elephant Droppings are also a vehicle for seed dispersal. Some seeds will not germinate unless they have passed through an elephant's digestive system.

  Older sister looking after new arrival  |  © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

Older sister looking after new arrival  |  © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

Want to know where to find the Mabalingwe elephant herd? Just follow the trail of broken water pipes.The clever elephants walk right up to the water pipes and burst them so they can enjoy an afternoon refreshment from the new geyser they made all by themselves. Not surprising if you consider that they have the largest brains in the animal kingdom.

 The Mabalingwe Matriarch    |    © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

The Mabalingwe Matriarch    |   © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

 Pretending to be brave   |    © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

Pretending to be brave   |   © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

The Mabalingwe herd live in a tight social unit led by an older matriarch. Currently, there are youngsters of different age groups in the herd, from recently born to much older calfs. Elephants can give birth every three to four years. Gestation period is almost two years. The youngsters have made the herd very protective and secretive.

 Seeking comfort   |    © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

Seeking comfort   |   © Photography by Marthinus Duckitt

Elephants spend about 16 hours a day eating, and they consume as much as 180 kg of food per day.

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