|Elephants, Tarangire NP, Aug 2011|
|Eles love to wallow - digging waterholes as they do and removing up to 1 m3 of soil a time.|
In actual fact estimating densities of any animal is trickier than you might imagine - they're certainly not unifrom across the landscape, with local concentrations in certain areas, or in different seasons. So it's fairly hard to make direct comparisons of densities across different National Parks, but it's pretty clear that Tarangire is certainly among the top two or three elephant parks in Africa. So the question I'm innevitably asked, is what is the impact of these elephants on the landscape? Weighing in at around 3000kg and eating as much as 200kg of food per day, elephants can have a massive impact on the landscape - add to that the fact they're pretty good a toppling tasty looking trees (generally across the quieter tracks I like to frequent, it seems!) and there's a lot going on. In some corners of Africa it is certain that they've had massive impacts on vegetation - creating rather unsightly bare areas around permanent waterholes and rivers. However, whilst tourists might not like these places, increases in elephants are often associated with similar increases in buffalo and impala, and the biological impacts are not all negative. It's also difficult to discuss issues of elephant density from a well informed basis as we don't actually have any real idea about the starting conditions before massive hunting for ivory - most of Africa's elephants were hunted out alongside the slave trade in the 1800s, so even in the high density areas of today we really don't know how this compares to densities of even only 200 years ago, nor do we know what the environment looked like particularly well back then.
|Tarangire Elephants deep in the swamp keep the water open. Aug 2011|
|Open water created ideal habitat for water birds: Silale Swamp, Tarangire|
|When you're tired of elephants you'd better stop guiding... Tarangire May 2011|