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 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.
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.
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.