An astonishing collection of wildlife has adapted to the arid desert and seemingly inhospitable environment in Namibia.
Although not much different from other savannah Elephants Loxodonta Africana, Namibia’s desert-dwelling Elephants are special nonetheless. They are of high national and international conservation priority and have been designated as a top priority for protection by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
In the northern Kunene Region, where rainfall averages less than 100mm annually, Desert Adapted Elephants will migrate long distances in search of food and water. For example, some of the Elephants of the Hoarusib River migrate to the Hoanib River, a distance of over 70 km (45 miles). Typically, the Elephants will drink and eat constantly for a couple of days, then make the long journey across the barren gravel plains in one long push, usually at night when the temperature is cooler.
They have adapted to their dry, semi-desert environment by having a smaller body mass with proportionally longer legs and seemingly larger feet than other elephants. Their physical characteristics allow them to cross miles of sand dunes to reach water. They have even been filmed sliding down a dune face to drink at a pool in a desert oasis. Water, dust, and especially mud are sought out for bathing and coating the skin against the harsh sun and biting insects.
Elephants eat almost any vegetation, including grasses, herbs, shrubs, leaves, bark, seeds, and fruit. Adult bulls can consume 250kg daily, although females eat less than that. During the wet season, they prefer green shoots and buds, but in the dry season, desert elephants will eat camelthorn, mopane, and Ana trees and seedpods.
By living in smaller than average family units of only two or three animals, they decrease pressure on food and water resources. Researchers have noted that they destroy fewer trees than elephants living in higher rainfall areas in other parts of Africa.
The Namib Desert Elephant communicates in a highly intelligent way with others of their species. Many of their calls are low-frequency calls and rumbles (below the level of human hearing) that can travel 5-10km or more. They can also make a variety of other sounds and calls including trumpeting, snorting, roaring, barking and grunting.
There is only one other group of desert-dwelling Elephants in the world. They live in Mali in North Africa.
Lifespan: 40 – 50 years in the wild
Mass: Male: 6,000 kg (Adult), Female: 3,000 kg (Adult)
Height: Male: 3.3 m (Adult, At Shoulder), Female: 2.8 m (Adult, At Shoulder)
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