Walking with an African Elephant and a lioness

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Matthew and I were privileged to go for a walk with an African elephant and a lioness on a Game Farm in Hoedspruit, South Africa. They were orphans that had been brought up by humans. The elephant was sweet and gentle and totally at ease and friendly. As I walked next to her, her mahout said I should slip my hand under her ear. I was entranced to find the skin as soft as that of a baby! She reached out her trunk and held my other hand, gently swinging it as we walked, exploring my palm with her “opposable thumb” at the end of her trunk. I was in heaven. The mahout said I should gently blow into her nostrils, so I did, she looked straight at me and blew gently and rumbled at me. She draped her trunk around my shoulders for about 2 minutes. Then it was someone else’s turn. I cried.

The lioness was younger than the elephant, who was 2 years old, and a whole other kettle of fish! She was boisterous and playful and full of mischief. The rangers said Matt should try to stay in the middle of the adults, because the lioness would want to play with him, being smaller than everyone else. She’d jump on him, not knowing her own size and strength, and could inadvertently hurt him. She was really fun to watch. Her poor ranger was rough-housing with her the whole way, not because he wanted to, but because she did. Matt did get jumped on; she grabbed him around the leg from behind. The ranger laughed and told him to stand still, and came over and pulled her off him. Matt was thrilled and delighted!

The elephant and lioness were not really friendly to one another, so the animals took it in turns to walk with us, while a ranger took the other one a few meters away. The elephant would glare at the lioness whenever she caught sight of her, but there were no problems or fuss. In fact they got the lioness to lie down on a branch in a tree, with the elephant posing right underneath her! The elephant knew exactly where the lioness was, and kept trying to grab her with her trunk!

It was a magical, beautiful, moving day.

I lost all the photos somewhere along the line, so I have posted a photo of another ellie friend.

By the way:

Instead of giving you the usual facts about elephants, I’ll give you a few surprise ones.

The South African Rock Hyrax, commonly known as a Dassie, is the African Elephant’s closest relative.

Taken from CapeTownMagazine.com

Dassie’s Relation to Elephant Finally Makes Sense

Table Mountain’s Dassies being the closest living relative to the African elephant is finally believable

One of the most unbelievable facts about Table Mountain’s Dassies is that they are the closest related relatives to Elephants. Despite the enormous difference in size between the two, research has claimed the dassie is the African elephant’s closest living relative.

Recent research has revealed that these claims may not be some unfathomable – at least in terms of size. A new discovery has revealed that the oldest ancestors of modern-day elephants were little bigger than a rabbit.

A 60 million-year-old skull dug up in Morocco has been identified as the earliest form of elephant species.

This creature was trunkless, measured less than 50 cm from tip to tail and weighed just 5kg. The mini-jumbo had front incisors which jutted out of its mouth to form the forerunner of the modern tusks.

Analysis of the teeth in the skull proved it was related, however distant, to the modern elephant. It is 10 million years older than other Elephant ancestor fossils discovered.

This is where our beloved dassie steps in. The close evolutionary relationship between the teeny-tiny Dassie and the ginormous African Elephant is deduced from similarities in the structure of their feet and teeth.

Dassies are heavily preyed upon by Eagles, Caracal and Leopard. Besides their treacherous incisors and a moveable membrane in the eye which shields the pupil and allows vision directly into the sun they don’t have much going for them when it comes to protecting themselves from predators.

Although we love our Dassies and hate to be the ones to say it – but it looks like the Dassie got the short end of the genetic stick in this family tree.

Dassies have evolved into somewhat lazy creatures. With a favourite pastime like basking in the sun on large rocks, particularly during mornings and late afternoons, the rock dassie seems to be the small and lazy brother in this family tree.

With Cape Town growing into a bustling metrople, it’s good to know that at least the Dassie still fits into the “Kaapstad – Slaapstad” theory

The Elephant Shrew’s closest relative is the Elephant

    

FUN FACTS

The 17 living species of elephant shrew are more closely related to elephants than shrews. They can be found throughout mainland Africa, with the exception of western Africa and the Saraha.

Elephant shrews are not related to shrews, rabbits, hedgehogs or llamas, as was thought at different times. Scientists finally figured out that these fuzzy, long-trunked creatures are in an order all their own. Not only that, but all 18 species are found exclusively in Africa, just like sea cows, aardvarks, hyraxes and elephants, to which they are related. To eliminate some of the confusion caused by their name – for, as stated, they’re not actually shrews at all – they are sometimes called sengis.

  • A Lioness weighs between 120-150 kg (260-330 lb)
  • Female lions usually hunt at night or dawn and in packs.
  • An adult female lion needs about 5 kg (11 lbs) of meat per day
  • In prides the females do most of the hunting and cub rearing.
  • Many of the females in the pride give birth at about the same time. A cub may nurse other females as well as its mother.
  • Lionesses aren’t the most successful of hunters, because they usually score only one kill out of several tries. After the kill the males usually eat first, lionesses next-and the cubs get what’s left.
  • Males and females fiercely defend against any outside lions that attempt to join their pride. Maybe in this case the family that preys together stays together!
  • The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasseled tail, which serves a purpose beyond aesthetics. It’s often used to signal to other members of the pride, with messages ranging from directional, “this way” commands to flirtatious, “come hither” invitations!
  • Baby lions
  • Baby lion in the wild are born in a den which can be a cave, a thick bush, a very secretive spot in the forest.
  • Baby lions in the wild are only protected by the lioness, the female and male lions, the dominant lion and the whole lion pride.
  • Baby lions in the wild feed on milk and meat, eat lizards, birds, insects.
  • Baby lions in the wild will drink river, lake spring water which is sometimes mucky and infested with crocodiles.
  • Cleaning of the lion cubs is the duty of the lioness; by licking the lion cubs with its tongue from head to toe. Washing the baby lion’s face to the ears, eyes and nose.
  • Baby lion in the wild are born in a den which can be a cave, a thick bush, a very secretive spot in the forest.
  • Baby lions in the wild are only protected by the lioness, the female and male lions, the dominant lion and the whole lion pride.
  • Baby lions in the wild feed on milk and meat, eat lizards, birds, insects.
  • Baby lions in the wild will drink river, lake spring water which is sometimes mucky and infested with crocodiles.
  • Cleaning of the lion cubs is the duty of the lioness; by licking the lion cubs with its tongue from head to toe. Washing the baby lion’s face to the ears, eyes and nose.
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