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Cheeky, the naughty elephant in musth

Mon 29 Jul 2019

For those of you who have yet to encounter him: meet Cheeky, the well-deserved nickname says it all for this elephant bull with crooked left tusk, who loves to challenge you upon an encounter with him. Should you run into him, don’t be fooled by his attitude of first ignoring you: he has some tricks up his sleeves, especially when he is in musth (more about that later). As he walks leisurely alongside the road he seems to ignore your car, he breaks a branch or two, nibbles on some leaves, scratches the ground looking for roots, all the while not looking at you. But he is fully aware of your presence. Which he masterly shows when he starts following your car. Our guides never take risks and make sure there always is a way out.

It seems that Cheeky has missed a step in his development towards adulthood: the company of some other bulls who would have taught him a lesson and put him back in line. And especially when in musth he is a presence you’d rather avoid. The musth can be defined as a periodical change of the behaviour of elephant bulls, which can last from some weeks up to some months. This change has got hormonal reasons. In the musth period, a bull produces 40 to 60 times more of testosterone (male sex hormone) than in the non-musth time. You can easily recognise an elephant in musth as you can see the leaking of liquid from his temporal gland (see photos), between his eye and ear. So should you run into Cheeky or any other bull while he is in musth, better change gears and look for other company!