An encounter with an Elephant

Thunderstorm over Kruger. Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

It is the end of the dry winter period. Huge thunderstorms are rearing up at the end of each day. Bathed in the light of the setting sun. Some just resulting in a spectacular lightening show but just a few spots of rain. The occasional storm drenching a strip of parched land  as it sweeps across the park. Sill most of the river beds appear dry except for a few pools. These reduced to bath water and buffalo wallows. The elephants however know that clean water is just below the surface of these sandy river beds. They dig holes and drink from the filtered water that seeps in.

Elephant bath Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer
Elephant dust bath Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

We found this loan bull elephant wetting itself down at one of the ‘bathing’ pools. We had time for a few shots before it climbed out of the river bed and headed for a dust pan. Fortunately the river loop road gave us a perfect view as the huge bull dusted down.

Elephant dust bath Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

Elephant dust bath Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

It vacuumed up the dust and blasted it at its damp skin.  Head, back, legs, underneath, every part got a coating. So for all budding wildlife artists out there: What colour is an elephant! Light and dark grey, silver when wet and vast range of colours from first wet and then dry earth. Elephant sunscreen and insect protection comes in a vast range of colours.

Elephant deye Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

The relatively small eyes are shrouded by course eye lashes that collect crusty lumps of mud. This prompting me to wonder, is the poor vision of elephants is actually the result of these muddy curtains.

Elephant cleaning eye Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

There where pauses in the dusting. A few kicks at the ground to accumulate more dust. The tip of the trunk occasionally rising to delicately plucks crusty irritating dirt from the eyes.  The effort of the process, the huge weight of the trunk also prompts regular rest. Back legs crossed and the trunk draped over stumps of the once mighty tusks to reduce the load on its face.

Elephant resting trunk Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

The huge trunk must weigh hundreds of kilograms. It’s used to lift, push and drag down trees. Strip bark and leaves of thorny branches. Wrestle other bulls for mating rights. However on noticing a small stick in the soon to be vacuumed dust it delicately plucks it up and flicks it aside. Control of the mighty trunk mastered over time.  Control that new born elephants take time to learn. Until then their trunks flip uncontrollably.

Baby Elephant Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

After the big guy finished his dust bath he casually wandered over to our car. Close enough to fog our windscreen if it hadn’t bee so hot! Checked out our faces to see if we were suitably impressed. Accepted our open mouthed response to his huge bulk towering over our hire car and decided not to play stompy with us! I like elephants!

Elephant Photo by Stephen Powell Wildlife Artist - Photographer

About Stephen Powell

Stephen has been an active environmentalist working in, field work, public speaking and lobbying at all levels of government. He has spoken at school and community gatherings as well as on radio. His comments on environmental issues have appeared in newspapers and newsletters. His work has attracted a number awards, which include Wildlife Art Society of Australasia & Best Flora or Fauna-Moomba Art Show. His passion shows in his works which are in demand for galleries and as private commissions. Training: Watercolour: ‘The Botanical Art School of Melbourne’ under the internationally acclaimed Jenny Crompton (Phillips) Oil: with the gifted wildlife artist Krystii Melaine. Drawing and field sketching: with Steve Morvell He takes classes and travelled to Mitchell School of Arts to take wildlife art workshops. And the Murrumbidgee School of Creative Arts in Wagga Wagga. McGregor School Uni Southern Queensland Toowoomba. Grafton to be added in 2011.
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