Elephants are one of the premier species of mammal in Africa, and a species that attracts a huge amount of debate amongst humans - and they are found in great numbers in the Okavango Delta.
© Bull elephants challenge
Elephants are one of the premier species of mammal in Africa, and a species that attracts a huge amount of debate amongst humans - and they are found in numbers in the Okavango Delta.
Persecuted for their ivory, known as white gold, Elephant numbers have decreased alarmingly in Africa in the past three decades, with only a few places on the continent showing stable or increasing numbers. One of those places where Elephants numbers are increasing is the Okavango Delta.
A Far Away Place
There was a palm tree standing somewhere in the vast Savute Marsh that was the subject of much debate. How did it get there and how did it grow in such very dry area. This was at a time when the Savuti Channel was dry and the marsh was an interchangeable grassland and dust bowl.
The answer to the question of how the palm tree got to be on the Savute Marsh is in the unique relationship between Elephants and palm trees - and was most likely carried to the Marsh from the Okavango Delta.
Elephants are an integral part of the Okavango, and an important dispersal agent for many of the trees that occur in the Delta, and in particular the Real Fan Palm - also known as the Mkolwane or Vegetable Ivory Palm. The fruit of the palm is embedded in a hard shell that is covered by a soft fibrous layer. It is this layer that the Elephant's digestive system breaks down. The palm fruits assist the Elephants in digesting food and the Elephants in turn deposit the fruits across their range through their dung.
The seed of the Savute palm tree was most likely carried from the Okavango in the stomach of an Elephant and deposited on the marsh during a wet cycle in Savute.
The Okavango Delta is also home to the original African Elephant Back Safari. Long before the activity became common-place an animal trainer from a zoo in the United States decided to bring three Elephants from the zoo back to Africa - and after many adventures along the way they finally settled in the Okavango and the original African Elephant-back Safari was born.
Today there are areas in the Okavango where Elephant interaction can be experienced where the emphasis is not on the actual riding but more walking with and interacting with the gentle creatures.