lowland forest, part three

A juvenile elephant, apparently missing its left tusk, sniffs around the base of an ozouga tree.

Today, it has been 13 days since I have checked on my stealth camera.  I have arranged to have Lisa, Mireille (a visiting scientist studying elephants) and Axel (a recent graduate of the school of Forestry and Water, Libreville) accompany me for a look at the lowland forest.  It is a beautiful afternoon between rains, and we spend time among the ozouga trees, examine elephant dung for sprouting seedlings, walk the trails, and listen to a variety of birds.  Near the end of the afternoon, arriving at the stealth camera, we notice it is askew on the tree where is was fastened 13 days ago.

A hunter passes through the forest at night, a headlamp to illuminate his way.

A closer inspection reveals that it has suffered a serious impact to the front, crushing the glass lens cover, motion sensing unit, and front cover assembly.  Opening the back, I am relieved to find the SD card in place and the electronics still functioning.  Eight pictures unravel the events of the past 13 days, beginning with a foggy visit from an elephant in early morning darkness on November 17.  The elephant appears to be the same individual that paid a visit on the 12th November, if curve and length of tusks are any indication.  90 minutes later in the early morning, a juvenile elephant wanders through with what appears to be a missing tusk.  Later that night, a hunter passes along the trail, illuminated by headlamp.  Whether he notices the camera or not isn’t clear.

A massive elephant appears along the trail, shortly before 6pm.

The following evening, shortly before 6pm, an enormous elephant appears on the path next to the ozouga tree.  It is possible that he didn’t like the idea of a portrait, for thirty seconds later, a picture appears of an elephant’s mouth and tusk at close range; the image is motion-blurred, the alignment no longer as it was earlier.

An elephant, probably irritated by the camera’s red flash, attacks the stealth camera. The lower lip and left tusk are visible, as well as left front leg. It scored a direct and disabling hit on the camera lens and motion sensing unit, crushing the front cover.

Subsequent exposures are blurred and unidentifiable.  From this record of events, it seems to indicate that the elephant likely put a tusk into the front of the camera in reaction to the camera’s flash.  The flash is infra-red, though a weak red light present at the time of exposure could have spooked him.  Packing up the camera, we continue our trek through the forest.  It will take some serious reconstruction to attempt a repair of equipment.

Mireille and Axel examine the large ozouga at the stealth camera site. According to Mireille, the buttresses of this tree are polished by elephants using this tree as a scratching post.

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