The sight of a huge herd of elephants obediently following in the footsteps of the matriarch is truly one of Africa’s most iconic.
An elephant’s life is far from easy. With their huge bulk probably their greatest Achilles heel is their need for vast quantities of water. In arid or drought-stricken areas this elemental driver often requires arduous treks in the heat of the day, more often than not peaking at well over 100 F to find the last remnants of this life-giving fluid.
Sometimes elephants that have been without water for more than a day are so driven to drink that the intoxicating smell of water can cause the herd to stampede to the water hole with the young throwing caution to the wind in favor of slaking their overpowering thirst.
In areas where it is dusty such a herd can be seen approaching from kilometers away.
Etosha National Park in Northern Namibia still offers the opportunity to see large herds, occasionally numbering 50 or more of these sentient grey dust-covered ghosts, heading in their obedient march behind their trusted leader.
For a photographer, the incredible dusty arid landscape adds a dramatically harsh air to the scene and Etosha has and always will be one of my favorite locations to photograph in.
For several weeks at a well-known water hole, we waited for the moment when a large herd would walk towards us, with a chalky grey sky and clean uncomplicated background as the tapestry upon which to capture the harsh realities of survival that face these animals.
It is hard to believe that just 40 years ago there were nearly ten times more elephants than what there are left in Africa today.
The disappearance of sights such as these, perhaps the most iconic symbol in all of Africa, may end up being the final indictment of our inability to recognize the importance of what sharing the earth with such sentient beings brings to our souls.
Large: 173cm x 102cm (68” x 40.2”)
Standard: 118cm x 70cm (46.5” x 27.5”)
© Chris Fallows 2018