Observing Forest Elephants

View from the mirador at Dzanga Bai           (Copyright by David Rouge)
Elefant digging for salt minerals      (Copyright by David Rouge)
 Copyright by Andrea Turkalo
 Copyright by Andrea Turkalo
 Copyright by Andrea Turkalo
 Copyright by Andrea Turkalo
 View of the Dzanga Bai from the airplane

To be able to observe the timid forest elephant in the wild is an experience usually reserved to a limited circle of researchers. Dzanga Bai has always been known for its remarkable density of local wildlife, and visitors have thus the chance to observe wildlife in a region covered by dense forest where this is hardly possible. It is a forest clearing extending 500 by 250 meters, which can be reached after a 40 minute walk through primary forest on a path created by elephants.

The Dzanga saline offers tourists the possibility to observe between 40 to 100 elephants daily from an elevated platform located at its edge. The elevated density of wildlife can be explained by the presence of soil that is rich in minerals and clay. Animals find these minerals in the water stagnating on the surface as well as via digging into the ground. Respective nutrients are essential for the reproduction of elephants. Besides elephants many other animal species that are characteristic for the Reserve can be observed: Sitatunga, forest buffalo, Bongo Antelope, wild boar and a great variety of bird species

The first study of forest elephants (a species practically unknown at the time) has been started in Dzanga Bai in 1990. This study has yielded a great amount of information about these elephants: population structure, density, its social as well as reproductive behaviour and its communication. More than 4000 elephants have actually been identified in the course of this study out of which 85% have been observed at least twice.

Poaching constitutes the principal thread to forest elephants. They are not only hunted for their ivory but also for their meat. Their protection depends on the fastidious efforts of forest patrolling. With the expansion of forest and diamond exploitation in the region, the resulting increase of human population constitutes a principal thread to forest elephants.