Animals A-Go-Go

Elephants in Tanzania

Apr 24, 2001
Outside Magazine

Between 300,000 and 600,000 African elephants—roughly half the number that existed just 20 years ago—survive south of the Sahara. Though a ban on ivory helped ease the pressure on the elephant, rampant development continues to be a threat in Africa, where only about 20 percent of elephant habitat is on protected land. It's possible to encounter pockets of pachyderms on game-viewing trips throughout the continent, but the best place to see large herds in summer is Tanzania's Tarangire National Park, a sweeping 1,600-square-mile expanse of baobab-dotted grasslands just southeast of Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. During the dry season (June to November) as many as 300 elephants at a time join other wildlife crowding the banks of the Tarangire River, the park's only permanent water source. Watch a herd of elephants for a while and you can't help but be moved by their power and grace, the tenderness with which they treat their young, and, above all, the astonishing deftness of those funky half-lip, half-nose trunks as they draw water to their mouths, shower, trumpet, strip bark, shake fruit off trees, guide babies, pick up tiny leaves, spray themselves with dust, sniff, dig wells, and high-five (high-one?) each other. Elephants have even been known to swim underwater using their trunks as snorkels. While you probably won't get to see the snorkel act, you will get quite close to the herd in your safari vehicle. Walking is prohibited in most of Tanzania's game parks—probably not a bad thing since 13,000-pound elephants can run as fast as 25 miles an hour.
WHAT ELSE YOU'LL SEE: Zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, eland, giraffes, oryx, gazelles, impalas.

MIGHT SEE: Lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, rhinos, leopards.

Filed To: Nature, Tanzania