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Elephants in the Moonlight

For this years' World Elephant Day, we asked our field staff to share their most memorable elephant experiences. Here are their stories.

Elsabe van der Westhuizen After two years we started seeing signs and footprints of elephants passing around camp at night. Elsabe van der Westhuizen
Elsabe's story: Gonarezhou elephants have had hard times in the past - large culls took place up to the early 1990’s, and after that there was continued hunting of elephants to supply management rations to staff. This meant that when we first arrived at Chipinda Pools, the project headquarters in the northern sector of the Park, that elephants were very skittish and there was very little sign of them around the main staff and office complex - a big difference from our North Luangwa experience with elephants walking through camp on a regular basis.

One of the first interventions the FZS project did was to stop ration hunting and replace this with food packs or a beef subsidy to rangers. It took a while - but after two years we started seeing signs and footprints of elephants passing around camp at night - until one evening my husband Hugo woke me and we watched our first live elephant just across from camp in the moonlight….  An absolutely magical and haunting experience.
Elsabe van der Westhuizen is project leader of the Gonarezhou Conservation Project in Zimbabwe.
Elephant, North Luangwa, Elsabe van der Westhuizen

From her time in North Luangwa Elsabe was used to having elephants walk straight through her back yard. This one seems to consider a rest on the garden swing.

More elephant stories