Tuesday, 15 March 2016


Introduction :

Dzanga Bai is a Tropical Rain Forest Clearing situated within the confines of Dzanga Ndoki National Park in the crisis and chaos ridden Central African Republic in Central Africa. It is being destroyed by organized poacher gangs on a daily basis.

It was once said that in the Continent of Africa, human communities were like islands surrounded by Elephants. These days, its exactly the opposite as Elephant Populations are plummeting and drastically declining almost all over Africa due to rampant poaching.

Dr. Andrea Turkalo of the Wildlife Conservation Society - New York conducted a pioneering study of "Forest Elephants" for more than 20 years at Dzanga Bai, a remote 30 acre clearing within one of the largest of such islands on the continent - a cluster of rainforest preserves in Central Africa.

When Dr. Turkalo, came to Dzanga Bai in the late 1980's, little was known about "Loxodonta Africana Cyclotis", the Savannah Elephant's elusive smaller cousin that makes up 20% of the 400,000 remaining African Elephants or less.

Ranging widely through dense rainforest vegetation, Forest Elephants are extraordinarily difficult to study. For years, researchers considered themselves lucky even to spot a Forest Elephant, much less observe one and based their limited conclusions on indirect evidence such as dung or feeding trails.

Then, Dr. Turkalo set up camp at Dzanga Bai where Forest Elephants congregate to drink and dig minerals from the soil.

Working from a platform in the trees, Dr. Turkalo meticulously observed every Forest Elephant that visited Dzanga Bai. She noted physical characteristics so as to establish individual identities, and then built on this data to study life histories, family structure, and patterns of group behaviour.

Over the last 20 years or more, Dr. Turkalo has spent most afternoons on her platform "Unravelling  the intricacies of the forest elephant lives".

Bachelor Life of Forest Elephants :

Middle - aged Males gather at the Modoubou River near Dzanga Bai during the rainy season, using a network of foot-worn trails that are probably centuries old.

Solitary travellers in the "Equatorial Rain Forest", these bachelors socialize at such clearings relying more on their sense of smell than on eyesight to identify old friends or foes.

Why saving Forest Elephants at Dzanga Bai is important :

There are less than 4,000 Forest Elephants left at Dzanga Bai. Because of the chaos in the Central African Republic, these Forest Elephants are at the mercy of poacher gangs as there is no one to protect them.

Dr. Turkalo has identified more than 2,500 Forest Elephants at Dzanga Bai over the last 20 years or more. Dr. Turkalo has brought a wealth of research from Dzanga Bai to the world. She has studied more than 300 Forest Elephant Families in depth. What she has found, has been a classic matriarchal system with all groups led by mature females. It is obvious that they have highly organized social lives centred around the "Matriarch" who controls everything.

Since Forest Elephants play a key role in spreading "Biological Diversity" within tropical rainforests in the Central African Republic it is essential that "Elephant Conservationists" get their act together to save forest elephants for posterity before poacher gangs beat them in the race and slaughter them for their ivory.

Conclusion :

Saving Forest Elephants of Dzanga Bai who do not have good eyesight is of utmost importance now. It has been documented by Dr. Turkalo how forest elephants communicate with each other in the absence of good eyesight. From birth, Forest Elephants use their trunks to touch each other establishing bonds of kinship while storing vital information from smells and textures to the muscular strength of their playmates.

Later, these games become more aggressive specially among males which grapple and joust with each other in order to establish dominance.

According to Dr. Turkalo, Forest Elephants dig relentlessly with their tusks and trunks in the muck at Dzanga Bai, mining the earth for salt and other minerals to supplement their diet of leaves, bark, grasses, and fruit.

Elephants work overtime to excavate these holes, according to Dr. Turkalo. "It is their main activity in the clearing".

Trampled by generations of tonnage underfoot, the clearing at Dzanga Ndoki National Park is constantly growing.

Forest Elephants pull down tree branches around the perimeter by tugging on a vine, or will strip bark off a tree until it dies and falls -- opening the forest to sunlight and to newer and more edible vegetation.

With the number of Forest Elephants Dr. Turkalo has counted, observed, and identified it is no wonder she calls "Dzanga Bai" a miracle.

But to keep Dzanga Bai as a miracle for generations of forest elephants, "zero tolerance" needs to be practiced against organized poacher gangs who slaughter these hapless elephants.

Let's hope that these forest elephants at "Dzanga Bai" never ever go extinct.

Reference :

National Geographic Magazine, February 1999
Vol 195, N0 -2 Pages 100-113
Forest Elephants by Don Belt

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