Nature Field Note

Nature Field Note

What does this creature or plant look like?

The animal that I am choosing to focus on this week is the African elephant. I think that you could recognize an elephant anywhere! However, did you know there is a difference between an African elephant and an Asian elephant? One noticeable difference between these two creatures is their head and ear shapes. African elephants have much bigger ears! You can do some more independent research on these differences.

I saw the elephants in a sanctuary. A sanctuary is a place where animals (or people!) can go to be safe from the dangers around them. Keep reading to learn about why African elephants may need to live in a sanctuary.

How did you feel when you saw it?

As I was walking up to the elephants at the sanctuary, I found it really difficult to contain my excitement! Until then, I had been in Africa for about 2 months and I had not yet seen an elephant.

Before coming to South Africa, I thought that there would be wildlife all around me. I thought that I would live near a wild life safari or jungle and would constantly be surrounded by animals. My assumptions disappeared when I got to South Africa! I quickly realized I would be living in a city with very little wildlife. How much wildlife do you see every day in New York?

So far, one of my favorite experiences here in South Africa was seeing an elephant up close! When I rubbed the side of the elephant, I noticed that their skin was smooth yet bumpy.

I also got a chance to walk with an elephant. His name is Dabo and he was really gentle! I was allowed to feed him during my walk. When I tried feeding him, I suddenly realized that he was missing a vital part of his trunk. Do you know what the word ‘vital’ means? It means extremely important.

The wildlife instructor informed me that Dabo lost that portion of his trunk when he was captured by elephant hunters. They wanted his trunk for ivory. Ivory is the material that elephant tusks are made of.

The wildlife instructor told me that because Dabo had lost this important part of his trunk it is hard for him to pick up things to eat. To help Dabo, I actually placed the food directly in his mouth! It was really cool.

After I walked around a wooded area with Dabo, I was able to ride him! At first, I was really nervous because of how tall he is. However, the instructor helped me get on his back. Once I was up there, everything felt fine. I really enjoyed my time with Dabo and I hope that I can come back someday to see him again.

Where does it live?

For spring break, I traveled along the eastern coast of South Africa on a road called the Garden Route. We stopped in a small town called Knysna. That was where I had my first encounter with an African elephant. The Elephant Sanctuary in Knysna houses rescused elephants from all over Africa! Dabo is lucky enough to live there. He is originally from Zimbabwe.

How does it use its environment to survive?

Because Dabo lives in the elephant sanctuary, he does not have to worry about any natural predators. He eats vegetables and other vegetation on the sanctuary. When it is really hot outside, he can cool down by either rolling around in the mud or cooling off in shallow water.

What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?

If Dabo were out in the wild, his greatest thread would be humans. Some people, called poachers, hunt elephants and cut off their trunks to use for ivory. Ivory is a material that is sometimes used for art or jewelry. It is very expensive, and poachers can make a lot of money selling it.

Although I am not worried about Dabo’s safety because he is in the elephant sanctuary, I am really worried about other elephants who are living in their natural habitats. They are constantly at risk because of the value that humans place on their ivory tusks.

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