Tracking Desert Elephants

A pair of young desert elephants nuzzles one another playfully in Namibia’s Torra Conservancy.

The Torra is a community-run conservation area just west of Camp Kipwe that seeks to sustainably manage the region's natural resources to the benefit of the Conservancy's residents. Successful management of the region's wildlife over the past two decades has lead to increases in the populations of many species within the Torra’s 3,500 square kilometers, including: desert elephant, black rhino (now home to the largest population in the world), zebra, springbok, oryx, lion, leopard, and cheetah. This has lead, in turn, to a more than ten-fold increase in income for the region, largely through tourism. A portion of this revenue is returned directly to the region's residents. Another portion goes to mitigating the impacts of increased resident-wildlife conflicts. Livestock that have become prey for one of the region's big cats, for example, can be compensated for by the Conservancy, or directly replaced from a Conservancy-funded breeding station. The Conservancy represents a huge win for a conservation approach that benefits regional wildlife, local communities, and global awareness.

A safari drive to track these amazing animals can be arranged with the Camp Kipwe staff.

Donna hydrating before a morning spent tracking elephants.

However, wear warm clothes. Seriously. Do as we say, not as we do. The desert's cold in the morning. And that cold air especially likes to pool in the bottom of drainages and riverbeds, just the places that Desert Elephants like to hang out. Add a 20 or 30 km/hr breeze to that while you sit in the back of a Land Cruiser for a few hours

Our guide, Nico, grew up in Damaraland, shepherding sheep and goats within the vast landscape as a young boy. Can you imagine — as an eight or nine year old — having your father give you a few pointers, like what to do if you met a cheetah (whack it on the ass with a stick), a Lion (try to stare it down), or a Leopard (run like hell), then send you off in the company of a couple of dozen bleating prey for the day?

As all our guides did, Nico had a deep connection with and passion for the land that we were very grateful he was willing to share with us for a couple of days. Nico has since founded the Uncle Oryx EnvironCare project to help educate the next round of local environmental conservationists.