It is irrelevant here to argue against or in favour of naming wild animals. It happens often among the big five and others that are singled out for certain notable characteristics or behaviour and I am sure it helps researchers in their work. There is a tusker-naming project at the Letaba Elephant Hall in the Kruger National Park and many notable animals have been given names, not only in Africa but also throughout the world.
Boswell in Mana Pools is a bull elephant that is one of the legitimate owners of the place. It kindly let us enjoy its home without a grudge while it goes about its business. Boswell is well known by all that, like us, are frequent visitors of this beautiful wilderness area. It has a distinct feature: it can reach for the apple ring acacia pods higher than its colleagues.
Over the years it has developed a trick that few others can match: it does not only stretch but over-stretches by standing on its hind legs in perfect balance while it feeds at incredible heights. I do not know how it learnt to do it but perhaps it is an elephant tradition that is passed from generation to generation at Mana Pools.
Whatever the origin of its skill, many brilliant pictures have been taken in the past by great photographers and these can easily be found in the Internet. However, one thing is to watch professional pictures and/or documentaries and another, rather different one, is to see it performing live, just like any artist!
We have seen Boswell often once we learnt to recognize it but we have not seen its trick as it only takes place at a certain time of the year when the right conditions are present. Even at that time, you must find Boswell and it has to be willing to perform. This is not as easy as you may think.
During our last visit to Mana Pools last July game was not yet abundant in the riverine part of the park so I decided to cut short my participation in a family game drive and stay in camp to take things easy and to watch what was going on there as its proximity to the river is always rewarding. We had been, as usual, “attacked” by monkeys and the baboons were particularly vicious when they did not find anything, pulling down one tent an even biting our solar-powered lamps!
I spent some time tidying up and eventually sat down to have a cuppa and to write notes on the trip. Although it passed about five metres from me I only saw Boswell’s bottom and looked for the camera only to realize that it was with the rest of the family! Luckily I had my iPad with me!
Boswell crossed the river fast and soon reached a couple of acacias on the other side, about one hundred metres from me. There it started feeding and I watched for the first time his two-legged feeding trick.
As usually happens, my pictures are rather pathetic but I am, nevertheless, proud to be able to say that I saw Boswell performing for me alone at its home!