Jabu’s trunk tip investigates my right boot. Its scent swirls up two seven-foot-long nostrils – nostrils surrounded by nerves, arteries, veins and a staggering array of longitudinal and transverse muscles, the world’s biggest, longest and certainly most flexible olfactory organ.
A trunk is the most useful appendage that ever evolved. Imagine having an arm in place of your nose, an arm long enough to reach to the top of a tree and pluck a single leaf from its crown. Imagine having a nose that could rip, tear, excavate, whack, and blow bubbles. You could steal with your nose, suck on it, or swat, poke and siphon with your nose. You could take a shower, scratch your back, or whistle with it. You could even arm wrestle with your nose.
The seven-foot septum that divides Jabu’s nostrils is made of muscle, not cartilage. It becomes cartilage where his trunk attaches to his skull above his eyes. Thick layers of skin and muscle protect his trunk. It’s impossible for him to break his boneless nose, even when he uses it like a battering ram.
He picks up a wizened palm nut.
I ask Sandi, “How many of the fruits can he hold in his trunk?”
“Would you like a photo of that?” She takes some of the fruit already on the ground and puts them one, by one in the tip of Jabu’s trunk. “Jabu, good boy, Jabu, one more.”
Three, it turns out, but carefully placed so he can still breathe.
“Good, my boy, goooood. Okay Jabu!” Sandi tells him, and he spits out the fruits Whoooof! all at once.
Then he picks them up and gently tosses them, one by one, back to her.
How many are left? With no real protection, with rampant corruption, with a continuous conduit to China, I wonder how many in this scrum are still alive. The thing I love most about this photograph are skin textures: wrinkles and rubs and stains contrasting with the smooth skin on their ears.
African elephant calves develop deciduous tusks called tushes that grow up to five centimeters (two inches) in length and fall out when the elephant is between 6 to 12 months of age. Tushes consist of crown, root and pulp. They provide the foundation and orientation of permanent tusks, which are extensions of an elephant’s only incisor. Permanent tusks grow approximately 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) per year and grow throughout an elephant’s lifetime. This young elephant is about three or four years old. Female tusks grow at a slower rate, so her permanent tusks are just beginning to show.
I’ve never thought of baby teeth as deciduous, like the shed leaves on trees. Who knew that elephants have baby teeth?
Elephant ear and shoulder – a study in contrast.
She has very smooth ears, don’t you think? A well proportioned, if a tad round, elephant. Thembi is an enthusiastic eater.
While we’re on the subject of elephant hair:
Eating with enthusiasm, burying herself in her food.
A stray hair against a blue sky, the tips of eyelashes, hair around tusk, and on trunk. Wiry hair, soft hair. African elephants are surprisingly hairy, especially when you’re this close.
Hello, it’s Monday. Ever wondered what the underside of an elephant’s trunk looks like? See the grass stains?