Field Notes

January - April 2018

There were several storms in January and some waterholes were full. February was dry but many areas had patches of green vegetation. The rains started early, on the 1st of March. Throughout March, with the exception of a few days, it rained almost every day. Most of the waterholes were overflowing creating small lakes, like Mudonda Rock waterhole, photo right. Voi River, which typically flows for only a couple of days, bursts the banks creating many swampy areas. The volume of water was so great there were waves in the rushing river. In April, it continued to rain but not as heavy as during March. Many of the migratory birds that arrived in November stayed throughout the rains and left in late April: pairs of Steppe Eagles, flocks of Madagascar Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows and Eurasian Rollers. With the rains and abundant resources elephants dispersed throughout the park.


In January and February, bull groups were small, 2-3 bulls, and comprised of young males, 15-20 years old. With the rains in March and April, many known bulls were with families: Third, Hocki, Swift and Oort, Some groups were small, five individuals, while other groups were large, 40 or more elephants. On several occasions, I saw bulls in musth and elephants mating. The loud rumbles called my attention to the groups. However, distance and the tall and thick bush prevented positive identification. Draco (id-2010), photo left, is typically alone or with a family. In mid-April, he was in musth with Savanna, Summer and an unknown female with a floppy left ear. Draco was not guarding a female but following the family heading west. In early April, Pemba was alone; alert, standing tall and waving his ears alternately-signs of musth. When I saw him 13-days later he was in “full” musth: inside hind legs were wet, temporal glands swollen and fluid to his jaw. He was guarding an unknown female in a group of 52 individuals including Wishbone, four young bulls (15-20 years old) and two 30-year old bulls. Many unknown large bulls, 35+ years old, were in an aggregation of 300 elephants in early April in an open grassland area.


Most of the families sighted between January and April were from the Hill Clan. Last year In June, B2 (id-2003) was accompanied by her 6 year old female calf and a 14 year old male, when I found her in April this year she was with her female offspring and a new 7-8 month old calf, but the young male was not with them. The grass was too tall to see the new calf clearly to determine the sex. Chrystal, Olive, Peridot and their offspring were part of an aggregation of 300 elephants with numerous large bulls in an open grassland area. Heloise (id-2005), photo right, was with a large unknown female headed toward Voi River. Savanna and Summer’s families were together on several occasion during April, and on one occasion Oort, a 22 year-old male was following them. C.T.’s family of five was at the base of a hill where the grass was covered with vines with purple and white flowers. One young male of 8-years was using the vines he wrapped around his trunk as a fly swatter. On several occasions, he tossed the vine over his head and then left it there tucked behind his ear. When the family moved away, he followed with the vine and purple flowers draped over his head.