AN ELEPHANT CALLED CLASSIC

A few weeks ago, while guiding some of Tanda Tula’s friends and family, we had a privileged sighting of one of our iconic elephant bulls - a large individual known as Classic. Despite his size and his unmistakable missing right tusk, on this day, he simply looked too big to be the Classic in my memory bank… and trust me, it is a memory bank that stretches back many years!

I won’t ever forget my first encounter with this elephant way back in 2003 when in pre-budding game ranger days, I drove around a corner and found him, in full swing, coming straight down the road towards me! Sixteen years ago, I had barely overcome my fear of elephants, and didn’t have the experience with them that I do today, so needless to say my reverse gear was quickly found and a rapid (and somewhat noisy) extraction from the situation ensued.

It was shortly after this sighting that this particular individual became known as Classic to elephant researchers in the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). In May 2014, he became the second elephant to be collared by Elephants Alive and since then he has had his every movement monitored, making him one of the longest monitored elephants in Africa.

So far, 72 elephants have been collared in the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park (which includes the Greater Kruger, the APNR, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique), and data collected from these individuals helps to inform conservation management of one of southern Africa’s largest and most important elephant populations.

He was named Classic because, as a young elephant bull, he had two perfectly symmetrical, classically-shaped, and relatively large tusks protruding from him.It naturally became easier to identify him once he was collared, but as the years past we got to know him very well. He spent the majority of his time moving within the Mopane woodlands of the northern Timbavati, and then in 2009 he managed to break off his right tusk in a fight with another elephant bull.Although this may have hampered his classical appearance, it did anything but hamper his tusk growth, and over the years, despite the breakage, his tusks continued to grow impressively.

All elephants grow both in terms of body-size and tusk size throughout their lifetime.As they get older, their tusks grow more quickly, and bulls in their prime breeding age have the most rapid tusk-growth rates, as can clearly be seen in the timeline of photos shown below.As a bull in his early 50s, Classic’s tusks tend to be at their most brittle and last year he sadly broke the tip of his left tusk off, further tarnishing his classic appearance.I guess that it is a testament to his strength and size that despite all the ivory he has lost over the past decade, he is still the impressive individual that he is!

Classic is enjoyed and appreciated not only by guests at Tanda Tula, but also by a host of various young elephant bulls that almost always accompany him during his non-musth periods. Classic not only passes on his intimate knowledge of the Timbavati to these askaris as they follow him around his old haunts, but his presence is also enough to suppress the onset of musth in these younger bulls. By doing this he is able to maintain social stability within the population in much the same way that the presence of an adult can help calm down a group of rowdy teenage boys on a beach holiday!

Now that you know a little bit more about this gentle giant, perhaps next time you visit Tanda Tula Safari Camp, you too may be lucky enough to sit in awe and admiration of this gentle-natured elephant bull that has provided countless memories to all the guides and guests that have been lucky enough to spend time in his presence.

For more information on the work done on the elephants being monitored, as well as research in other areas of elephant conservation, please go and check out :  http://www.elephantsalive.org/

Classic in 2006

Classic in 2006

Classic in 2009

Classic in 2009

Classic in 2012

Classic in 2012

Classic in 2017

Classic in 2014

Classic in 2016

Classic in 2016

Classic in 2017

Classic in 2017

Classic in 2017 

Classic in 2017

Classic in 2019

Classic in 2019

 

 

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