It’s not often that you come back from a safari brimming with stories. There are elephants to report, or big cats, seldom both, and this time with birds added in. I don’t want to cause wildlife fatigue on my blog with just one post to cover them all, so will split them into multiple ones, 3, or maybe 4, in fact. Although, this might actually cause the fatigue am trying to avoid.
Feb-March is the time when elephants congregate at the Kabini backwaters from all around Southern Karnataka. They come from Bandipur, they come from nearby Nagarhole, they travel from Kodagu and Chikmagaluru, many from Hassan. The reason is the same why elephant congregations happen around the world – water. The Kabini backwaters become the main source for the next 3 months until the Monsoons arrive.
One could expect clashes and fights, but this is mostly a getting together of old friends and relatives. A herd of elephants in the wild is typically just 3 adult cows with calves being reared. But here they form bigger herds, not one super herd, that stays together. So you see around 6-8 elephants together as one herd unlike the usual 3. I don’t know what’s the largest size recorded is.
The day we reached there though, most elephants had disappeared. Even the backwaters saw one lone majestic Makhna grazing by the river. A ‘Makhna’ is a bull that does not have tusks. Why they don’t have is not known, but given the way poaching works, elephants might evolve to having no tusks to survive. It’s not for no reason that no elephant poaching happens in Sri Lanka. They don’t have any tuskers at all, all bulls are Makhnas. It has also been seen that tusks don’t provide any advantage in fighting off rivals. The one in musth typically wins.
Anyhow, this bull stayed around us, letting us click some photos and also observe him for a while. His ears seem to have been torn, maybe some fight with another elephant. The way they graze is usually to pull up grass using their legs and then using their trunks to pull it to their mouths. That’s what he was doing too. When you see a bunch of elephants doing that, it looks like they are dancing.