Dry season as usual is the period of elevated activity in the clearing. The long dry season takes place during the months of December through March and this year it has been unusually busy. This year we have witnessed more matings and musth guards than in past years. We have also observed fights between musth bulls which have been rare in the past. When we have observed musth male encounters in the past, one of two things has happened, either there is a physical encounter that lasts less than a minute or one of the bulls flees realizing that he is outmatched.
In both of the fights we observed this dry season one male, Habib, was a participant. He is a well known make whom we first identified in Septermber of 1995 and didn’t see again until December 2004. Since then he has been a regular visitor to the bai during the long dry season, his musth period. Habib’s first fight this dry season was with Gibor, a well known male, who we observed guarding a female in the clearing in December. The fight lasted a full five minutes, long for fights we have observed, the two bulls being evenly matched. Eventually Gibor succumbed running as he was pursued by Habib.
Habib and Gibor Fight
Gibor Flees Habib
The reaction of elephants in the clearing was excitement and heightened tension. The level of vocalizations increased to a crescendo which included roars, rumbles and screams were made in reaction to the fight and in the excitement a group of elephants which included females and their young ran out of the clearing to the safety of the forest. Later they returned to the clearing after Habib and Gibor left for the surrounding forest. We witness a similar kind of frenzy during matings in the bai when elephants vocalize in a similar fashion.
Prolonged fights are rare in the clearing but their presence is evident. Musth males often are observed in the clearing with scarring and wounds of encounters with other males during their rut period.
We witnessed an incredible sight four days ago when a group of 46 bongo made an appearance in the bai. They stayed the entire afternoon and were still present when we left in the early evening. Two days later tourists observed the same group in the morning hours before they left for the forest. With the group were four adult male bongo, evidently it is the mating season !