A trunkless Elephant

Marlon duToit All Authors, Marlon 4 Comments

Nature is amazing in all of her ways. She always finds the means to leave us jaw-dropped and in awe of her beauty, splendour and majesty.

That said, she can also at times leave us heart broken as some animals are left to suffer the worst kind of fate. We don’t always understand these events and it is simply within our nature to intervene in order to help out.

On one particular morning I found myself driving towards a waterhole, hoping for elephants enjoying a drink as the morning started heating up.
I could see a herd of elephants already leaving the waterhole behind as they finished quenching their thirst. I saw one young bull still lingering behind sipping from the waterhole, and decided to spend some time with him.

What I saw next took me completely by surprise.

At first I did not notice what was missing, literally. I could hear him loudly sucking water through his trunk. It took him a long time to gather enough water before characteristically tucking his head back in order to swallow the water from his trunk. He was facing me directly and once again, he took some time to drink, something that usually does not take more than 2 or 3 seconds.

He then turned slightly sideways and only then did the full story reveal itself to me.

This elephant was missing almost half of his trunk!!

elephant, marlon du toit, wild eye, safari

In an ingenious manner, he had figured out a way to drink water and survive to likely 15 – 18 years of age!

This young elephant would have to bend down a little in order to reach the actual surface of the water. He would then suck the water into his trunk through what appeared to be a very tiny opening at the tip of his trunk.

elephant, marlon du toit, wild eye, safari

He would then, as per normal, tuck his head back and squirt a stream of water, rather accurately I might add, right down his throat!
I have never before seen such behaviour. Yes, it did take the young bull a little longer to quench his thirst. This was evident in the fact that the herd had already left him behind. But the most important thing is that he was drinking and surviving!

An injury like this could have been caused by several factors.

Snares are unfortunately a common problem within African reserves. It is most often caused by subsistance poachers in search of an easy meal. Whilst the snare is meant to trap small antelope, it is often encountered by larger animals such as lion, buffalo and even elephant. A trunk is easily lost as a wire snare tightens with time.

Lions & hyenas could have been the cause as well. This young elephant may have had a terrifying run-in with these large predators when it was younger, and in the process could have lost a portion of its trunk.

Crocodiles could also be held responsible. These large reptiles have been seen on regular occasion grabbing drinking elephants by the trunk and holding on for all it’s worth. Whilst it is unlikely that the crocodile will catch a large elephant, a trunk could easily be severed or permanently damaged in the attack.

elephant, marlon du toit, wild eye, safari

Regardless, this is an amazing story and one that once again showcases the resilience of Africa’s beautiful animals.

Their ability to survive in the face of certain death is remarkable and inspiring.

Until next time…

Marlon du Toit







Comments 4

    1. Post
      Marlon duToit

      Hi Frances, this elephant was photographed very far from Botswana, in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Reserve. It won’t be the same elephant. Thanks for sharing a great story though!

  1. Mateo Sanchez

    I thought elephants traveled hundreds and hundreds upon hundreds of miles. I am confused why you would be so quick to dismiss this to not be “Chuma” How many trunkless elephants are there, really? My guess humbly, would be to say maybe one and stretching it quite thinly to even say two at most is overboard. I really want to believe its “Chuma”

    1. Gerry van der Walt

      Hi Mateo. Yes, elephants might have traveled long distances in the past but this has changed due to national borders, cities, etc. You’d be surprise to know how often we see this out in the field. Not a common occurrence but definitely not an isolated incident. And the reason Marlon dismissed so quickly that it was this ‘Chuma’ you mention is that this was photographed in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve which has a fence around it and there is no way an elephant could get into the reserve from Botswana. Thanks for your comment. Regards, Gerry.

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