WHY DO ELEPHANTS TAKE A MUD BATH?

When you are out on safari, especially during the wet season (summer months at Pondoro), you often encounter certain species of animals covered in mud. Elephants, both species of rhino, buffalo and warthogs are regular users of these mud pools that are formed where water gathers in any depression, some start small but through constant usage can end up as a deep mud pool or even a waterhole.

Elephants in particular don’t easily pass on an opportunity to cover themselves with mud during this season as they already generate a high metabolic heat and while being under the African sun results in a high body temperature. With no sweat glands to help with cooling elephants then use the cooler mud to regulate their body temperature and act as skin protection against the sun. That is not the mud’s only use but also to protect and get rid of any parasites on their skin.

An elephant will most likely use its trunk to spray mud all over the body usually covering the back of the ears first as this is where the heat loss is most efficient. Sometimes that process takes to long or they just feel it is more enjoyable and fun to just get down in the mud rolling and kicking as they lie down, the younger elephants tend to do this more than the adults.

So to see an elephant take a mud bath during the summer is fairly common but to have an enormous bull elephant with a huge set of tusks get down in the mud next to you is something only a few have seen. This bull elephant, that goes by the name ‘Ezulwini’, is one of very few males that still have the big tusker genes and we are fortunate enough that he roams in the Balule Game Reserve.

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