Elephants. Need I say more? These big, beautiful creatures always cause me to get excited and once I found out that our program includes a week long trip to Kruger National Park, all I could think about was elephants. And you wouldn’t believe the squeals that came not only from me but from many others in the game drive vehicles.
Not only did we see them on our many game drives (and there’s a ton of pictures plastered all over Facebook to prove it), but we also had lectures dedicated to them to learn about their impact on the African and Kruger ecosystems. Unfortunately, elephants do a lot of damage to the ecosystem as they tear down trees and other plants in order to eat. Elephants eat about 16 hours a day so they do a lot of damage to the landscape of Kruger, ultimately affecting the habitats of the other animals in the park. Also, since they are very emotional animals, the African elephant is very aggressive and difficult to manage within the park and in other areas of Africa.
There have been attempts and new ideas to manage the elephant population to decrease their impact on the environment like translocation, culling, and contraception. These also brought about many issues, including major ethical issues, and in the end were unsuccessful. New ideas are still being thought of to control the growing elephant population and save the ecosystem of the park, but there has yet to be an effective proposal.
My experience at Kruger has slightly changed my perception of the elephants due to the negative role they play in the ecosystem. Although I had a preconception that elephants were amazing and do no wrong because I think they’re just awesome, it is important to know that they can do wrong, but they’re still amazing (to me at least).