The wildlife knows the difference between a full camp and a quiet one. As a private camp, Kiba Point often has a few days between groups of guests, and some of the animals take full advantage, while others seem to lose interest in Kiba altogether. The monkeys move out of camp, perhaps no longer attracted to lavish lunch buffets and three-course dinners that they eye greedily. For a mama elephant and her calf, however, an empty camp is a perfect home. The pathways and vehicle track offer nice thoroughfares and the two of them experience minimal competition or danger from other animals. The question, however, is how do they know when it’s time to stay away?
During the last gap between guests, this elephant and her calf appeared in camp every evening. As Mother elephants with young can be aggressive, I was apprehensive about possible encounters between guests and two-ton (she’s pretty small by elephant standards) overprotective mothers. But the guests arrived and the elephants were nowhere to be found. The guests take off three days later...and the next evening the elephants are back with mama flapping her ears at us, but generally acting well-behaved. What tipped her off? The best explanation is that when we have guests, we line the pathways with lanterns, and the unfamiliar lights are a warning to stay away. But normally the elephants appear in camp before sundown. Is it the lack of vehicles that lets her know the camp is safe and quiet? I, for one, am generally happy with this system, though I didn’t feel that way at 1:00 in the morning last night when the two of them started knocking over trees and breaking branches close enough to my room that I could clearly see them in the moonlight.