Namibia Safari Guide | Desert Adapted Elephants

Elephants crossing the plains in DamaralandElephants crossing the plains in Damaraland

Living in the heart of the Kaokoland and Damaraland regions in the far north of Namibia, one will find herds of desert adapted Elephants that survive in the harsh climate of the desert with very little water.

Desert adapted Elephants are found in only two locations in the world; in Mali and in the northern reaches of Namibia. In Namibia one can find them along the dried up riverbeds of the Kaololand and Damaraland areas of Namibia.

Namibia's desert elephants

Much debated has been had over whether these specially adapted Elephants should be classified as a completely different species or not, but for now they are considered the same species as an African Elephant but with adaptations.

While these Elephants are the same species as the Africa Elephant they can appear leaner and taller due to their diet and have bigger feet than other African Elephants. The larger size of their feet allows them to walk with more ease across the very soft desert sand, an adaptation that is useful when you consider that fact that these Elephants have been known to travel up to 200 kilometres (124 miles) in search of water.

Elephants on the road

The other two main adaptions found in the Elephants is their use of water and their feeding patterns. Their smaller size also means that they need less water to survive. These Elephants also have slightly longer trunks to allow them to dig down into the sand in search of the water that might be running underground.

These Elephants only drink water every 3 - 4 days which is a massive reduction when you compare them to the Elephants in Etosha that drink up to 200 litres of water per day.

Unlike most other Elephants, the Namib Desert adapted Elephants very rarely destroy or rip up the trees or plants they are eating, choosing rather to be able to return to the plant in the future.

The presence of far fewer species of plants as a source of nourishment has resulted in these desert Elephants having to learn to survive on a far more basic and limited diet than the Elephants found in other safari parks across southern Africa. The reduction of nutrients in their diets has also resulted in their tucks being more brittle.

Desert elephants

Nomads of the Desert

by Katie Edge

African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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