During our two-yearly game counts it’s always striking to see some high numbers of animals that you hardly ever see or only in a far distance. We seem to have a striking number of bush pigs, but most of us have only seen them in a glimpse, let alone have a good shot of them. The nocturnal aardvark and aardwolf are also quite shy to show themselves.
But those are relatively small mammals, while there are some really very big ones that come in large numbers, like elands, which we don’t get to see too often either. And sometimes we only hear them, when the herd is scared off at the smallest of noise, stampeding so much that the earth trembles and the clouds of dust are the only proof of their elusive presence.
Elands are the biggest antelopes and though belonging to a family of sprinters, they are much slower when it comes to running. In fact, they are said to be the slowest of all antelopes. They cannot sprint but can surely maintain a trot for a much longer time. In spite of their large size, elands can jump long distances and heights. An adult eland can jump up to a height of eight feet (2.4 meters) from a standstill.
Elands, though mostly peaceful, exhibit a raging behaviour, specially the males, at the time of competing for leadership of the herd, as well as for mating the females. This rage even complements their strong built and enormous strength with which they, at times, bring down trees to graze the tender leaves off the upper portions. And it is an altogether different, heart thumping sight when they run in herds, sometimes to get away from predators and other times for fun, causing waves or ripples of tremors.
At Limpopo-Lipadi your best bet to find them in big herds is on the Middle Plains, where this photo was taken. As long as you stay quiet and far enough away, they will not make their moves, although the smallest crack or start of the car’s engine is enough to make them run for cover and let the earth tremble.