The two new bulls, Kahle and Mvula, have spent their first weeks exploring their new home at Samara Private Game Reserve. Separate at first, it took them a week to settle in and eventually meet up. They have spent most of their time together since then.
As for the group of female elephants at Samara Private Game reserve, they had not seen or heard any bulls for a year. Naturally, everyone was excited to see how the elusive female elephants would react to having elephant bull in their area again.
Kahle and Mvula were released on the western side of the reserve. But they seem to have settled on the eastern side, in an area with dense vegetation on the valley floor below the mountain known by the locals as Mark’s Pass. Here, they have plenty of delicious vegetation in the Cabbage trees (Cussonia spicata) and Jacket plums (Pappea capensis) and waterholes close by for drinking and bathing.
Nombeko and her family on the other hand prefer the mountain slopes. During the past year, these females have become quite the accomplished mountain climbers, spending most of their time on the mountain. Although the slopes can be steep, they are covered in Cabbage trees and Spekbooms (Portulacaria afra).
There has been a few times where we thought that Kahle and Mvula had met up with Nombeko and the others. The first time was in the first few days after the bulls were released. Late at night watching the updates coming in, it looked like the collars on Kahle and Nomvula were both heading to the same dam. But the GPS showed Nomvula changing direction shortly before ‘making first contact’. A near-miss. Then in mid-December and early January it looked like it might have happened. But we cannot be sure. All the “maybe”-encounters happened during the night with no curious onlookers around.
Late January we got proof that all the elephants at Samara have finally meet each other. Penny and her trainee, Mzi, have been following and observing the bulls since they arrived. And one day, they found Kahle with Nombeko and the other females. They seemed to have met in the middle, on the lower slopes of the mountain.
Mzi was instantly convinced that one of the bulls had joined the female group. It took Penny a bit longer to be persuaded. As always, Penny was very thoroughly going through Kahle’s different characteristics and checking them on the elephant that she could see in the distance. As he moved through the trees and shrubs, she got a better view of him and concluded that it was Kahle with the females. He was not in the middle of the family group, but rather feeding alongside them in their vicinity. A cautious move considering the skittish nature of the female elephants.
Mvula was nowhere to be seen. Both Penny and Mzi scanned the mountain slopes around the elephants, but found no sign of Mvula. It can be very difficult to spot an elephant, when you are far away on a densely vegetated mountain side. It requires eyes like an eagle, patience and a great deal of luck to be looking in the exact spot where the elephant becomes visible in the green sea of trees and shrubs.
Kahle eventually left Nombeko and the others and went in the direction of one of the dams. Penny and Mzi went around to meet him there. After he had been drinking for about 15 minutes, Mvula showed up. We do not know where he had been. It seems likely that he had been in the same area as the others, but maybe just further away from them.
Anything could have transpired, when the two bulls first made contact with Nombeko and the other females. Albeit we could have learned a lot from witnessing the initial meeting, it appears they are off to a good start.
Watch the video taken earlier this year of Kahle and Mvula with the female group at one of Samara’s dams. The video was taken by one of Samara’s guides, Julius Mkhize.
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