It is with a heavy heart that I write of the unfortunate demise of a legend in Balule. A lot of guests visiting Balule and Pondoro over the years would have had the privilege to see the huge elephant bull known as Shoshangaan. He was fitted with a satellite collar a few years ago by Save the Elephant Foundation who collared a handful of elephants throughout Kruger Park in order to track and monitor their movement patterns.
He went into a condition called musth a few weeks ago. Musth is an Urdu word which means to be sexually intoxicated. Mature bulls over 30 years of age would go into musth once a year showing symptoms of swollen temporal glands and constant dribbling of urine onto their hind legs. It is a time of heightened aggression caused by higher levels of testosterone as they would be looking for cows ready and willing to mate. Most deaths by mature elephant bulls happen during this musth cycle as two bulls in musth of more or less the same ranking status will usually fight when their paths cross. We saw Shoshangaan about 3 weeks ago suffering from a huge wound in his body obviously caused by a tusk, but thought to be not too serious after an initial assessment. We have a policy of not interfering with the wildlife in the reserve unless the cause of concern seems to be human induced. The reaction would still have been the same even if we had known that the injury was a lot worse than initially thought.
Shoshangaan was frequent visitor to our camp often feeding within half a meter from my feet as I was standing on the dining terrace admiring his size and the precision with which he plucked individual leaves from twigs with his elegant trunk. I have many fond memories of him feeding at night within touching distance from my bed 3 meters above ground level while looking straight into his gentle eye with more than just a little bit of frustration as he was busy munching away with obvious delight on one of my sacred trees.
He was estimated to be about 40 years of age.