World Lion Day (August 10th) and World Elephant Day (August 12th) celebrate two of the icons behind South African safaris. They’re the two animals that take pride of place on anybody’s game viewing checklist, but they’re also of utmost importance to us at Thornybush.
Elephants are a joy to observe any day of the week, and while lions can be a little predictable in their daytime activities, our guests still love them. Thanks to our expert field rangers and guides, and healthy populations of these species, we can almost guarantee that you’ll see these top ticket creatures during your stay with us.
However, as conservationists, lions and elephants are important to us on a whole different level. Both of these creatures have a vital role to play in the environment. Here’s why they’re so important.
It’s hard to imagine the word ‘vulnerable’ being associated with the King of Beasts, but the truth is that lion populations are dwindling all over Africa. Lions once roamed the length and breadth of Africa, Asia and Europe, but they’re fast disappearing. There are half as many lions alive in the wild today as there were 25 years ago. Take a moment to let that sink in.
Lions hold a position right at the top of the food chain in the wild. Thanks to their cooperative hunting techniques, they can take down even the largest prey species. In this way, they help to control the population of these voracious grazers. If it weren’t for lions, the entire continent would surely have been eaten to the ground many centuries ago.
Despite their excellent hunting skills, lions are content to feed at the back of the pack, preying on the weak, the sick, and the old. Not only does this mean the best examples of prey species survive to procreate, but it also does a lot to stop disease in its tracks.
If there’s one creature that few lions will dare to take on, it’s the elephant, although they can and do bring these mammoths to the ground occasionally. Aside from the bravest and most skilled lions, elephants have no enemies apart from man. Mankind has ravaged this species for its tusks since time immemorial, which means they are now also considered ‘vulnerable’ in conservation terms.
While lions keep the grazing populations down, it’s elephants who ensure that they have enough to eat. Without the elephant’s talents at eating and felling trees, there would be almost no open spaces for grazing species to thrive. Elephants eat their way through forests and dense bush, creating gaps for new growth. They also control trees sprouting up in the grasslands to allow grass to thrive.
When elephants are thirsty and there’s no water to be found, they dig in dry riverbeds to reveal the moisture hidden below the surface. When they’ve had their fill, these temporary wells are still there for other smaller species to use, especially in times of drought.
Apart from their landscaping talents, elephants are known to be intelligent, complex, unique creatures with strong familial bonds and simply don’t deserve to disappear. What’s more, they’re a vital drawcard for safari tourists, which means they’re instrumental to a thriving tourist industry in Africa.
We know that when we take our guests out to see lions, elephants and other animals in their natural environment, we’re helping to build awareness around them and spread the word about safeguarding them for future generations to enjoy.
If you want to do something to ensure that your children and grandchildren get to enjoy the safaris that you love so much, there are things that you can do. Donating to wildlife conservation is a good start and paying your conservation fees when you book a safari is another way to help.
However, the most important thing you can do is talk. Spreading awareness about these amazing animals and their role in nature is imperative for their survival, as well as being an easy and cost-free way to do good.
When you book a safari with Thornybush, you’re contributing financially to the welfare of our wildlife and their custodians. You’ll also leave here with the knowledge you need to talk about their plight.