Luangwa Valley and the Diverse Animal Kingdom

Zambia with its large expanse is home to one of the most diverse species of an animal kingdom.

Amongst other animals, elephants are predominantly the ones who set off on this perilous journey every year through the Luangwa valley. Little do they know what luck really has in store for them.

Yet it’s a journey which take every year.

The matriarch with his group are journeying through the harshest, cruelest, and inhospitable environment where the weather they will find is inclement. The females make major bulk of this herd. They are the mother’s the sisters and the cousins, and a young newly born calf taking his first journey also.

He is too frail yet too curious and excited. He is frisky and very playful at the same time. The journey begins amidst the fear of the unknown.

With water running scarce, the temperatures soar up to 40 degrees. The herd will march on to find water. One valley in Zambia covers 6,000 square kilometers. Luamva has one of the highest concentrations of wild life. As the land turns arid and the vegetation dries away, the herd comes closet. The matriarch leaves for the great journey, the elders sandwich the younger ones between them.  The days travel is not over yet. Umbria and his cousin collapsed while others look for food. In a late October they are left to bare sticks and dry leaves. The group is of the females the mother’s sisters and the cousins and their daughters.

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The matriarch has a particular destination in his head. He has on his mind a dwindling source of water. They have phenomenal memories. As they close in to a lagoon, the place has already been staked out by hungry lions. The elephants cool off by playing in the mud. The mud proves like a sun screen. The fanning by flapping brings the temperature down by about 5 degrees. This watering hole is a temporary solution.The lions go prowling around. The male elephant is on guard. Umbula and his cousin are too well protected.

Hanging out with male  A young calf reaches his puberty by the age 8. By then they have to leave their herds and roam around in the wilderness on their own.

It  requires a lot of years to attain maturity and have the right to mate. Elephants have poor night vision. They may not be able to see the predators but they have a very strong sense of smell. The young are too exhausted to move on.

The most successful hunt takes place at night. The greatest water source in the valley is 12 kilometers away. The matriarch wants to make the most in the cruel night by moving on. The lions have hunted down a young antelope. The pride feeds off on this less than 60 kilo prey. Not really enough to feed them all.

A little more than a few meandering channels leading to the river, all animal life is converging on to this area, putting prey and predator before one another.

Despite the blistering heat the herd moves on. They are now 3 kilometers into the river area. This is the most treacherous part. The Mancy herd moves on. Little Umvula tries to encourage his cousin. The little ones won’t be able to march further. The matriarch trumpets and they move on, into the lion plain.
Once again the herd moves into a defensive position. That’s the most trickiest part. The herd is too tired, the predators take advantage of their prey.

It will take the elephants 40 minutes to cross this expanse. Watchful and wary they push on under the gaze of the hungry lions.

The lions wait patiently sitting along the perimeter. As they cross the tree line the matriarch knows they are close to the river but, suddenly they are surrounded by the lions. A charge does the trick and the mumba pride backs down.

Umvula is exhausted. He has covered 50 kilometers with a few mouthfuls of milk. A few more elephants seem to have made it to the river. They all huddle together.

Umvula and his cousins are protected by the male giants. Finally they all drink.

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Having made it this far without losing is a testament of the matriarchs leadership. It’s an incredible gathering, almost sixty have gathered around the Luangva river. Once they have had their fill. They will move on to the sparse pastures of the lion plain. They have no choice but they will run their gauntlet. One exhausted calf gives in finally.

Once the carcass collapses the hyenas take away whatever remains. Until the rain returns. Elephants will resort to something known as rhino fissil.

Hunger breeds desperation. He tries to suckle from one of her aunties. The mother is not nursing. The hard times are far from over. Until the rain the herd will have to move through the danger zones. There are threats day in and day out.

The following day the over due rains arrive. In a matter of days the water holes begin to fill, within two weeks the area will be lush vegetation. Umvula has made it through his first dry season.

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