October 28

What Makes Silvan’s Elephants So Special: Silvan Safari Blog

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By Nigel Ridge on
October 28, 2021

When out on safari, there are many iconic sightings, but Silvan’s elephants will always have a special place in our hearts. Of course, there’s nothing like a leopard swaggering past the vehicle within touching distance or a male lion’s roar vibrating the earth. However, elephants are always a highlight on a Silvan Safari.

Meet Silvan’s Elephants

One sighting that always stands out for me and leaves the guests in awe is being surrounded by a herd of elephants feeding all around us. There’s something magical about having such a large animal that can destroy anything in its path only metres away, passively feeding and minding its own business. 

South Africa is off the UK red list
Silvan’s elephants are simply remarkable.

Being able to watch one-month-old calves trying to learn how to use their trunk for the first time or the one-year-old babies mock charging the car whilst mom just stands there with an embarrassed look on her face is priceless. It’s almost as if she’s thinking “How dare my child behave so rudely in front of these people.”

One of the things that fascinates me so much about these magnificent animals is their intelligence, from their social structures as tight-knit family groups to the fascinating forms of communication they use.

African Symbiosis

African elephants often get criticism for destroying the environment. However, they are keystone species, which means that they play a critical role in their ecosystem. They’re known as ecosystem engineers, and elephants shape their habitat in many ways for them and those around them.

They help create watering holes for other animals by digging up dry riverbeds. Furthermore, elephant dung is full of seeds, assisting plants in spreading across the environment. Moreover, it makes for pretty good habitat for dung beetles!

Elefante majestoso em um poço - Calendário da África
Silvan’s elephants are majestic.

When Silvan’s elephants are feasting on trees and shrubs, they create pathways for smaller animals to move through. And in the savannah, they uproot trees and eat saplings, which helps keep the landscape open for zebras and other animals.

Elephant Anatomy

Elephants only have one stomach and an inferior digestive system. Therefore, they have to feed for at least 20 hours a day and eat hundreds of kilograms of food to sustain themselves. You may ask yourself why they haven’t adapted from one stomach to four stomachs like most other animals. Well, the reason for this is simple. It’s to ensure that elephants fulfil their job as the ecosystem engineers who shape the bushveld.

Although they have small eyes and poor eyesight, they make up for this with their sense of smell, the best in the whole animal kingdom. In fact, an elephant can smell water from up to 20 kilometres away!

Michael admitting an elephant at Silvan while under lockdown
The perfect design to navigate the African bush, the mighty elephant.

How Silvan’s Elephants Communicate

Elephants are brilliant animals with excellent memories. It’s this memory that Matriarchs rely on during dry seasons when they need to guide their herds, sometimes for hundreds of kilometres, to watering holes that they remember from the past. And with approximately 600 billion neutrons in their brain, double that of a human being, it’s understandable.

What’s truly fascinating is that they communicate with one another not only using sound, but also touch, and scent. They can hear a trumpeting call from up to eight kilometres away! They also use a wide range of sounds to talk to each other, including those humans cannot hear. It’s impressive to see a herd feeding peacefully, and then suddenly, without a sound, they all at once start to move together.

Self-Aware Creatures

Elephants are highly empathetic animals and can express grief, compassion, altruism and play. They perform greeting ceremonies when a friend who has been away returns to the group. Furthermore, they sometimes ‘hug’ by wrapping their trunks together. And they pay respect to the dead by gently touching the skulls and tusks with their trunks and feet.

They can also recognise themselves in a mirror. Such displays of self-recognition indicate a very high level of awareness and are something that only humans, apes, cetaceans and magpies are otherwise known to do. As sensitive creatures, elephants often display behaviour patterns similar to post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Another fascinating fact is that they can distinguish between different human voices, including languages, male and female voices, a friendly tone of voice, and those associated with danger.

Elephants at Silvan Safari
Silvan’s beauty.

Busting the Elephant and Mice Myth

Unlike stories suggest, elephants are not afraid of mice. This myth comes from a disease that mice carry in their faces called encephalomyocarditis, a cardiac disease that can be deadly to elephants. They are, however, terrified of bees and ants, so some African farmers protect their fields from elephant damage by lining the borders with beehives.

These animals are some of the most gracious and impressive beings to have ever walked the planet earth. Anything that lives to above 60 years in the wild is something to behold.

They are always at the top of many of our guests’ species lists when on safari and one of those animals that you can watch for hours on end as they passively feed or swim in the water. We’re grateful for Silvan’s elephants and that these incredible beings allow us into their unique and complex lives.

Come See Silvan’s Magnificent Elephants Up-Close

Our elephants are anything but shy! They’ll greet you with their trunk by taking a sip of your pool at the lodge, or shuffle past your game vehicle. Book your stay at Silvan Safari and come witness their remarkable grandeur and interesting behaviour in real life.

Contact Rhino Africa’s Travel Experts, and start packing!

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About the author 

Nigel Ridge

My passion and love for wildlife started from a young age. I was fortunate enough to have parents who took me to the bush every chance we got. I then pursued a career in nature conservation. During my practical year, I spent some time as a guide and fell in love with showing people animals for the first time and teaching them about this amazing place I live in. There is nothing better than an early sunrise, late afternoon sunset or staring up at the millions of stars with dead silence around you. Doing this is how I want to spend the rest of my life!

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