African Ele-Diary 2010
December 21, 2010
(NOTE: If you are having difficulty accessing the embedded video on this page, you can watch it on our YouTube Channel.)
With Zula's passing last year, Tange and Flora began spending more time together. At first, it seemed that Flora still preferred to have her own space, but lately she seems to be opening up to Tange more often. Tange chooses to spend the majority of her time close to Flora, and over time, Flora has been increasingly accepting of her companionship. You will usually find them hanging out in the same part of the habitat—sometimes separately doing their own things—and sometimes standing together.
Recently, we have noticed that Flora and Tange have been playing together more often. They will chase each other around the habitat, sometimes covering about an acre of land. With Tange, it is very obvious when she is ready to play, as she tucks her head down low and bows down with her ears out. With both Girls spinning around in circles and kicking their legs out behind them, they signal, "Let's Go!" On several occasions, we witnessed Flora getting down on her knees and allowing Tange to wrestle her from above. With their trunks entwined and touching all over each other’s faces, it becomes apparent that these two feel affection towards one another. We are lucky to be witness to these two elephants interacting in such a natural way, and are very happy that the depth of their friendship continues to grow.
June 30, 2010
The 300-acre African Habitat is made up of three areas, all have beautiful valleys, creeks, hills and secret little gullies. All three also have lots of magnificent trees, both conifers and deciduous, and offer our African elephants at the Sanctuary the unique opportunity to freely exercise their natural, wild instincts to browse and create savannas.
Currently, Tange and Flora have access to two of these areas. One is a 10-acre section near the Barn, where at one time you could not even see into the Valley because of all the trees. Today, it looks like a bomb has exploded. (Their names were Zula, Tange and Flora!) It's a healthy site to see though, because that means the Girls have constantly been on the move and eating what they like to their heart's content. The second area is about 50 acres that includes the Plateau and Pipeline, places where they have knocked down so many trees it's hard to keep the roads clear. This area also includes a very lush Valley where they spend a lot of time, and you can often hear trees popping down in this Valley.
The third area is approximately 240 acres that has only been partly explored by Tange and Zula in years past, but because of Flora's more robust fencing requirements, she has not yet toured this area. We would like to change that, but first need to rebuild the fencing to Flora's standards. Plans are currently underway to apply for some grants in hopes we can get this project underwritten soon, allowing us to open up more areas of habitat to both Flora and Tange once new fence construction is complete.
On average, the Girls knock down and eat at least four trees a day (and who knows how many at night!). The African Girls are resourceful and will eat the entire tree, starting with the tender tips of the Pines, the roots of the Hickories as well as stripping and eating the bark off of all of them.
In most areas, the only trees that are left standing are the ones sitting on the side of a very steep hill or in a deep gully—we even have an area where the Girls have eaten off all the tops of the trees and left the rest, giving it a very manufactured look. Thanks to their tireless landscaping efforts, Africa is being transformed into a very nice, very flat Plain, full of all types of grasses, weeds, and of course, 100 to 300-gallon mud holes.
Ordinarily these new greenways sound ideal to sustain them, but Africans prefer to have trees in their diet. Basic math tells us that at the rate they are going, with the exception of the trees growing on steep slopes the elephants aren't able to easily navigate, they could eventually de-forest almost the entire 300 acres. When this new fencing project is complete, our goal is to be able to rotate them into different areas of the habitat at different times of the year, allowing new forest growth to preserve the mainstay of their diets, while giving them new areas to explore that are virtually untouched.
Watch Slide Show!
March 15, 2010
You may wonder what activities Flora finds to keep her busy. Landscaping for one. Flora comes from a long line of "landscapers" in the African savannah. Taking down trees and shrubs is a "natural," as well as planting seeds through her dung droppings. The elephants of Africa are constantly changing the landscape, which transforms forest to savannah and savannah back to forests. As you can see, Flora is very focused on her task at hand. (See the 3/15/10 Ele-Notes for the rest of the story)
February 20, 2010
We are sometimes asked about the size of Tange and Flora’s tusks; why they are smaller than African elephants in the wild, and do not appear to have grown very much in the 6 years they have been here at the Sanctuary. While elephant tusks are often trimmed and filed in captivity, that is not the case here. Just like people, an elephant’s hair, toenails and tusks grow at different rates. Genetically, some have long tusks, some short, some thin and others thick. The role that any captive environment plays on tusk formation is the result of having man-made, unnaturally hard surfaces like concrete and steel--these will often wear their tusks at a higher rate than you would see in the wild.
In a recent visit to Africa, researchers talked about right and left-handed elephants; they often have one tusk they favor more than the other for pulling roots and small trees, many times leading to deep grooves and additional wear in just one of their tusks.
Here at the Sanctuary, Flora’s tusks do not grow as fast at Tange’s--a genetic trait, plus Flora is a little harder on hers. She often chips them when playing in the barn and wears them rapidly when digging roots or stripping the bark off the trees. Also with Flora, the portion of the trunk that drapes over and around her tusks is longer and wider than Tange’s, which also contributes to the smaller appearance. When Flora raises her trunk and exposes her tusks, they are actually over 12 inches long.
In these photos, you can see the size difference in Tange and Flora's tusks vs. how much larger they actually are when they raise their trunks in play.
January 20, 2010
Tange and Flora having fun in the mud - something that is practically an every day occurrence for these two!