Elephant Calves, Musth and Mayhem at Leopard Mountain Safari Lodge

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Elephant Calves, Musth and Mayhem at Leopard Mountain Safari Lodge

Posted by: Storm Catterick

As Leopard Mountain’s trails guide I don’t often get to go on game drives, so when I get the chance I jump at it, with my camera in tow of course! This particular afternoon we were treated to a sighting of a breeding herd of Elephants. As we arrived the herd seemed to be very unsettled with loads of vocalization and mulling about.

When the dust settled a bit we could see one of the causes of the unrest. A tiny little calf only a couple of weeks old, still fluffy and flailing around, not yet steady on its feet.
The other reason for the unrest was a large unruly bull elephant in musth. Musth is a condition in bull elephants when they have large amounts of the hormone testosterone in their bodies; this makes the bulls for lack of a better word ‘pig headed’. A bull in musth will often take on bulls much bigger than themselves as they have no fear and a wandering eye.

The matriarch of the herd had her hands full trying to protect the young cow from being harassed by the musth-ridden bull with less than honorable intentions. Both the big bulls on the reserve are in musth at the moment, so you can just imagine the testosterone fueled debauchery that is going on!

It was very interesting to hear the distress calls of the young calf that obviously felt uneasy with all the commotion going on. All the little one wanted was a minute of peace and quiet to enjoy a meal. Unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen as the herd moved off at a great pace leaving the musth bull in a cloud of dust.
We tried to relocate the herd but kept just missing them and managed to only get a final glimpse of them before they moved off into some very thick bush. It still amazes me that such large animals can disappear so quickly into the bush. Blink and they will be gone leaving only the sound of cracking branches that dare to be in the way!

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